Canada’s House of Commons elects the country’s first Black speaker

Newly elected Speaker of the House of Commons Greg Fergus smiles in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

(Sean Kilpatrick / Associated Press)

Canada's House of Commons elects the country's first Black speaker

Oct. 4, 2023

Canadas House of Commons on Tuesday elected Greg Fergus as its new speaker, making the Liberal lawmaker the first Black person to hold the position.

The election was triggered by the resignation of Anthony Rota, who stepped down last week after he invited and honored a man who fought for a Nazi military unit during World War II.

Just after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke before the Canadian Parliament last month, lawmakers gave 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka a standing ovation when Rota drew attention to him. Rota introduced Hunka as a war hero who fought for the First Ukrainian Division.

Observers later began to publicize the fact that the First Ukrainian Division also was known as the Waffen-SS Galicia Division, or the SS 14th Waffen Division, a voluntary unit that was under the command of the Nazis. Rota later apologized saying he had not been aware of that.

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Fergus, 54, is a Quebec Liberal lawmaker.

After lawmakers elected him to the role through a secret ballot, he promised to lead with respect, and encouraged his fellow lawmakers to respect each other. Canadians are watching, he noted.

The speaker, to use the old hockey analogy, is nothing more than a referee, Fergus said in his first speech from the chair. And if theres one thing I know, its that nobody pays good money to go see the referee. They go to see the stars: you.