By Karen Kelly
Rawlson King was elected to the Ottawa City Council in a special by-election in April 2019. Prior to that, he spent 20 years in marketing, strategic communication and technology market research in the private sector. He is the first Black Canadian city councillor in Ottawa’s history.
How did you become interested in politics?
“I’ve been a volunteer in the community for a long time, most recently as president of my community association, so I had a lot of interface with the city. I had a sense of how the municipal government works and I wanted to improve the quality of life for people with some of the highest poverty levels in the city.”
How would you describe your ward, Rideau-Rockcliffe?
“It includes some of the most affluent neighbourhoods and some of the lowest income neighbourhoods in the city. The major concern in the north is heritage preservation; in the south, it’s social issues and crime.”
Any progress in your first six months?
“We’ve made a lot of progress. We brought back proactive, neighbourhood policing in my ward and created a beautification project for a corner that has attracted a lot of gun violence.
In working with diverse communities, Council and the Mayor, my proposal to establish an Anti-Racism Secretariat was adopted. It will improve the way the city develops policies, makes decisions, evaluates programs and monitors outcomes for all residents.”
How did your Carleton degrees help prepare you for this role?
“I had a lot of exposure to interdisciplinary social sciences during my time at Carleton—including law, communication, and social work—which continues to inform my worldview. I also continue to benefit from the critical analysis and research skills that I learned in graduate school.”
What is the significance for you of being the first Black Canadian to serve on Ottawa’s council?
“Racialized communities understand that my election was historic and thus have expectations. On top of all of the typical considerations that a councillor encounters, including transit, infrastructure and land-use planning, I am also naturally concerned about discrimination and hate crime. Black parents come to me to address racism their children have encountered in schools and elsewhere. People also want me to represent cultural communities on issues of equity in employment, housing and other public services. It creates an added challenge, but representation matters, and I’m happy to work on those additional issues so that we make progress as a city.”
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