Guyanese woman creates history in Canada
By Hubert Williams
December 24, 2006
AN OUTSTANDING Guyanese whom then South African President Nelson Mandela described as an African princess when he first met her in Cape Town in 1994 has created history in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan by becoming the first minority woman to win the nomination for election to its Legislative Assembly.
Dr. Judy Kobsar (formerly Judy Blackman) last week scored a landslide victory over three white candidates in the selection process by the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) to 'run' in the predominantly white Regina Rosemont constituency at the next provincial elections scheduled for either Spring or Fall of 2007.
The Premier of Saskatchewan, the Honourable Lorne Calvert, in a speech after the results were announced, said it was a day that would be recorded in the history of Canada. He expressed confidence that Dr. Kobsar's overwhelming victory at the party level will be repeated at the elections.
Dr. Kobsar has been selected to succeed retiring politician Joanne Crofford, a 15-year veteran in the Legislative Assembly who has held a number of Cabinet posts, the last being Minister of Culture, Youth and Recreation, with responsibility also for the Public Service Commission.
Land-locked Saskatchewan in Canada's southwest is almost 10 times the size of New York State (NYS) and has a population estimated at about one million, compared with 19 million in NYS.
The NDP controls 30 seats in the 58-member Assembly, with the remaining 28 having been won by the Saskatchewan Party (SaskParty), just a slim majority resulting from the previous elections in 2003.
However, the NDP hierarchy has expressed confidence that the party's excellent record in government during the past three years has identifiably improved its standing with the electorate and this is expected to translate into an increased majority at the polls.
Political analysts in the province are predicting that Dr. Kobsar, who is hugely popular in Regina, will take the constituency by a wide margin and also be elevated to a ministry.
She will be coming into elective politics from an impressive background of university teaching, community service, international relations and a stint as a technocrat junior Minister of Agriculture and Food.
Asked to comment on the outcome of the party vote, Dr. Kobsar expressed pride in being the first woman from what Canada calls a visible minority to have been so nominated; and expressed the hope that she will carry this performance through to the elections.
"I think that it is important that visible minorities have a voice in the legislature," she remarked, adding that "I think it also helps to boost the multicultural and diverse community we have here.
"Regina is a melting pot of various ethnic groups. Once they see one of their own has been able to get that far, it will make them do the same or even better."
A few days following the vote and the victory speeches and response, Dr. Kobsar attended the NDP Caucus at the Legislative Assembly where she was formally introduced by Premier Calvert to Cabinet Ministers, other sitting NDP members of the House, and to members of the opposition SaskParty, all of whom raised a cheer to her as the first Black woman to have reached thus far in the politics of the province.
In a response, Dr. Kobsar expressed deep appreciation of all the very favourable statements made about her and she pledged to work assiduously to retain the seat for the NDP with an even greater majority.
Dr. Kobsar is President of the Saskatchewan Caribbean Canadian Association and current Chair of the Saskatchewan Employment Equity and Diversity Association. Her previous service includes membership of the Board of Directors of the Regina and District Food Bank and the City of Regina Police Race Relations Advisory Board.
A former student of the Tutorial High School in Georgetown, Guyana, she has an excellent academic record and is numbered among about 200 people worldwide with a doctorate in Total Quality Management.
She has had the distinction of being part of a Canadian Government delegation to the White House, the first foreign group to be received by President George W. Bush following his assumption of office in 2001.
In the mid-1990s she travelled extensively to Ottawa for meetings with Federal Ministers Lloyd Axworthy and Paul Martin (former Prime Minister of Canada) while working with representatives of women's groups on Canada's Social Policy Reform Green Paper; and during the period 1993-1995 she served as Advisor to the Federal Minister of Justice on Crime Prevention and Safety in Canada.
Her most prominent awards include the Commemorative Medal of Canada (presented by the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan) for community and humanitarian work in Canada, the Saskatchewan Centennial Award, the YWCA Woman of the Year Distinction Award, the Woman of the Year Award of the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union, the Eddy Award for humanitarian work over and above, and numerous others through the years.
She has travelled extensively in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the
Caribbean attending conferences, conventions and seminars on race relations, human rights, family violence, pay equity and related topics, and these include the World Conference on Crime Prevention held in Cairo, Egypt and the 4th United Nations World Conference for Women held in Beijing, China, both in 1995.
Dr. Kobsar's current position is as Immigration Administrator, Saskatchewan Immigration Branch, Advanced Education and Employment.
Following her remarkable first-stage triumph, Dr. Kobsar has received numerous congratulatory messages from relatives, friends and admirers across Canada and around the world, the following being one example in which Guyana was specifically mentioned: “Congratulations!! I am so pleased for you. You were long destined for greatness, and Guyana's deep loss is Saskatchewan's and Canada's rich gain, for rather than scaling the heights of wet Roraima you are soaring above the snow-capped peaks of Canada's southwest highlands. History will mark this day, and Destiny says there's much more to come, for crossing the Rubicon has become your hobby. Just imagine, the world still deludes itself in the view that "Destiny's Child" is a pop group. Right on, Judy.”