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On the phone with public servant Jessica Quillan, District 4

The first woman of colour elected to council? No better time than the present to make it happen.

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MEAGAN DOWNEY
  • Meagan Downey
Jessica Quillan says she never backs down—and she's not about to start if she's elected councillor for District 4 (Cole Harbour–Westphal). She is ready to improve her community at a higher level, and although politics was never at the forefront of her mind, she says if she wants to make change, politics comes with the territory.

“I'm passionate about my community—improving my community—which is reflected in my volunteer work,” says Quillan, a member of the African Canadian Women in Public Service network. She has been a volunteer for Tunnel Vision, a non-profit that offers basketball lessons and a supportive environment to youth, and volunteered in an “anti-racism basketball tournament.” Quillan also has deep ties to the community through working for the Department of Health and Wellness with seniors for the last 10 years.

This mother of two believes running a household has prepared her for running for council. “Anybody who can run a household, have kids, supposed to be somewhere multi-tasking, all that kind of thing—can fend very well for themselves when it comes to a position like being on council.”

She's had to overcome a lot of obstacles in life, and says being an African Canadian woman means she’s had her fair share of daily struggles. “Overcoming those and rising to the top—I think—has made me prepared to sit at a table, with likely a majority of men that are a lot different than I am, and still be able to stand my ground and stand up for what I believe in.”

Quillan, 36, shares priorities with some other council candidates, such as improving accessibility to community spaces, increased affordable housing, traffic-calming measures and transit improvements. But at the top of her campaign priorities are diversity and inclusion. Quillan says more effort is needed to diversify the current municipal council.

“That takes actual collaboration with many people other than just council members. But it is something that someone on council can advocate for on other platforms, to help create some dialect and education for the people of my community and every community in HRM, to be able to amplify the voices of Black and Indigenous people of colour.”

Winning District 4 would make Quillan the first elected woman of colour on council (or among the first, if other women of colour candidates also win their districts). She says while it’s surprising she would be the first, what better time than the present to make it happen?

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