Canada marked a page in history on Tuesday, October 3, 2023, by electing the first black speaker of the House of Commons. The House elected Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) Greg Fergus as speaker, and this is the first time a black Canadian will hold the role.
Fergus replaces Anthony Rota, who stepped down from the role a week ago amid international controversy over his actions during a recent visit by Ukraine’s president.
Rota invited a former Second World War veteran who fought alongside the Nazis to attend the House during Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to parliament.
Fergus was one of seven lawmakers seeking to fill the speaker’s role, which is essentially to control the conduct of MPs, guide the agenda, and adjudicate debates.
Lawmakers routinely turn the chamber, as the House of Commons is known, into a bickering, nasty yelling match and engage in constant heckling.
While speaking from the speaker’s chair in an address to lawmakers after being elected by secret ballot, Fergus said that he hopes to restore order and respect to an increasingly contradictory House.
“Respect and decorum, I’m going to be working hard on this, and I need all your help to make this happen. Respect is a fundamental part of what we do here,” he said. “We need to make sure that we treat each other with respect, and we show Canadians that example. There can be no dialogue unless there’s a mutual understanding of respect,” Fergus said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he hopes Fergus achieves success in his quest to bring order to the house.
“We elected you to help us be civil in our debates, to remind us we’re all here for the same reason, which is to serve Canadians. This should be inspiring for all Canadians, especially the younger generations who want to get involved in politics,” Trudeau said.
Gregory Cristophe Fergus, born May 31, 1969, is the 38th and current speaker of the House of Commons of Canada. He is the first person of colour in Canadian history to be elected Speaker and is a member of the Liberal Party.
This historical election comes at a time when lawmakers in the House are dealing with a new push to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Should the motion to vacate be successful, McCarthy will become the first speaker of the House removed from his post in United States (US) history.