Simone de Beauvoir Institute principal looking to be the Liberal candidate in upcoming by-election
“What does a feminist Parliament look like?” asked Kimberley Manning, the principal of Concordia’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute, in an interview. It’s a good time to think about the answer, she said.
Manning’s name will be on the ballot for the Liberal Party of Canada’s nomination of a candidate to run in the Outremont riding for the upcoming by-election. In December, Thomas Mulcair, the riding’s current member of Parliament (MP), announced he would be leaving federal politics in June, creating an opening in the House.
Manning is open about her goals if she is selected by Liberal Party members: she hopes to find better ways to recruit, train and mentor women from marginalized communities—not simply “white, middle-upper-class women” like herself.
Manning admitted the road ahead will be challenging, largely because she is not well-known in the riding. Meanwhile, her Liberal Party opponent, Rachel Bendayan, ran against Mulcair in 2015. Back then, Bendayan lost by approximately 5,000 votes, despite spending over $108,000 on her campaign—$4,000 more than her victorious rival, according to Elections Canada financial filings.
“I’m definitely starting way to the rear of where she is at in terms of her organizing. So, ultimately, it literally comes down to numbers—the number of people that I can sign up to the party, and the number of people who will ultimately come out the night of the nomination,” Manning told The Concordian. What she lacks in political experience, the professor believes she can compensate for in her studies of legislative processes as part of her PhD in political science, as well her advocacy in the halls of Canada and Quebec’s assemblies.
Last spring, Manning and her trans daughter, Florence, made their voices heard a few times in the Senate to help the passage of Bill C-16, an amendment adding gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination.
“That was very galvanizing. I really got to feel and experience what it means to really try to advocate for something that you believe in within those institutional structures and ultimately be successful,” she said.
“As a parent, I want my child to be seen as who she fully is. I want her to have the dignity that should be afforded to all people who reside in Canada,” Manning wrote to senators on May 30, 2017, a few weeks before the bill was passed.
A few days later, in a blog post also signed by Elizabeth J. Meyer, the author of Gender, Bullying, and Harassment: Strategies to End Sexism and Homophobia in Schools, Manning rebuked comments made by Manitoba senator Don Plett.
“With all due respect, Senator Plett is wrong,” she wrote in response to the senator’s opinion that there isn’t any law “in the world that will prevent children from bullying.”
Manning doesn’t hide her strong, personal attachment to the Outremont riding—the result of being a resident for seven years—nor the reason for her move there from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (N.D.G.).
“There was a school that was prepared to work with us to create a safe environment for my child,” Manning said about her decision to move to Outremont.
In an interview with Parents Canada magazine, Manning said she met Shuvo Ghosh, the head of the Gender Variance Program at the Montreal Children’s Hospital—the only pediatrician in Quebec specialized in the treatment of transgender youth—and later determined with her husband that N.D.G did not have a safe school for their child.
Manning, who teaches political science in addition to her position at the institute, is careful when describing her role in protecting the rights of members of the trans community. Her involvement, she pointed out, is nascent compared to other trans activists, but is very personal. She said her testimony at Senate hearings “was a very powerful moment.”
At Concordia, Manning is the faculty lead on C-FAR, the Critical Feminist Activism in Research, a group exploring the idea of a feminist university that “calls for a disruptive practice in which ‘meaning-making processes that create and sustain relations of domination’ are brought fully to light,” she wrote in Concordia Magazine, citing the ideals of political theorist Rita Dhamoon.
“How do you take some of those principles and processes into Parliament?” Manning subsequently asked. “One of the reasons I want to run is because there is so much work still to do in terms of creating more open and inclusive political structures to increase participation.”
Running for the Liberals, Manning told The Concordian, is an opportunity to deepen “the work that’s already underway.”
“I just see it as where I can be most effective and have the most impact,” she added.
In November, Manning sat on a roundtable with Randy Boissonnault, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s special advisor on LGBTQ2 issues.
“It was really extraordinary to see the way in which he encouraged and was able to bring in everybody around the table,” she said.
Getting picked to run under the red banner will require asking people to join the Liberals, and come out on the still-undetermined night of the nomination. The biggest challenge, Manning added, “is just having the time to meet people, to get to know people, and have those conversations which are so key to […] ensure there are enough people who are going to say, ‘Hey, what she’s doing is really interesting and I’d really like to help.’”
Photo by Alex Hutchins