Huh. In weird synchronicity, the same day America's truculent, backbiting GOP pols ousted Disorder in the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in a pointless act of animus, Canada's diverse pols elected their new House Speaker on, evidently, another planet. He's black, a first. He got a standing ovation. There were hugs, grins, high-fives. Everyone laughed as the country's leader ceremonially mock-dragged him to the podium where he vowed his focus would be on mutual respect, and good will reigned. Unfathomable.

In what was deemed "a 180-degree vibe flip," Liberal MP Greg Fergus, a Quebec Liberal MP, became Canada's first Black Speaker of the House of Commons Tuesday after a majority of his colleagues chose him in a secret ranked-ballot vote, defeating six other candidates. The rare mid-season election was triggered by last week's abrupt resignation of Anthony Rota after he (likely inadvertently) invited to a recent speech by Ukrainian President Zelenskyy a 98-year-old World War ll "hero" who fought for the First Ukrainian Division; after Rota proudly introduced the veteran and lawmakers gave him a standing ovation, it was uncomfortably revealed the Division was in fact an SS unit fighting for the Nazis, and after emigrating to Canada said hero was reportedly investigated for, but never charged with, war crimes. The incident caused outrage, another sign we are in an entirely different universe where Nazis are not only disallowed from blithely serving in the People's House - Paul Gosar, this means you - but can't even visit in old age. Rota swiftly apologized and resigned - he remains a Liberal MP member - amidst universal acknowledgement the first task of a new Speaker was to "restore the honor" of the 338-member House.

Enter Fergus, 54, who first came to the House in 1988 as a teenage page serving water at the foot of the Speaker's chair he will now claim. At age 14, he has said, he began subscribing to Hansard, the daily transcripts of House debate, in a reflection of his "lifelong love" of Parliament and its labyrinthian workings. First elected to the Quebec riding, or district, of Hull-Aylmer, in 2015, the year Justin Trudeau's party swept into power, he has described himself as a "community activist, long-distance runner, new grandfather and failed musician." In 2022, he pointedly decried the truck-driving MAGA louts who invaded his country as The Freedom Convoy who "thought it was acceptable to bring swastikas and Confederate flags to Parliament Hill." “Let’s not mince words," he declared. "The Confederate flag is a symbol for slavery." He added that, while he hopes most Canadians don't embrace it, "In my heart I was left wondering who else supports this flag." After the messy little "Nazi in the House row," Fergus again spoke up as a Black man in a country that's famously more diverse and tolerant than America - it doesn't take much - but still 70% white country. "What brought us here today requires a response," he intoned. "Words matter. Symbols matter. This I know."

As Speaker, Fergus is supposed to be politically neutral, an impartial adjudicator among sometimes bickering factions. Tasked with enforcing House rules, he will vote only to break a tie, and carry out managerial, ceremonial and diplomatic responsibilities on behalf of Canada's Parliament. Before the vote, he pledged to be "firm, thoughtful, collaborative, consistent and certainly fair...What motivates me, and what I vow (to) promote, is one word - respect." Again, it's a far cry from our experience with the "ostentatious disorder" of a House whose speakership was - checks notes - "an optical illusion (that became) an exercise in self-abasement.... animated by something akin to nihilism" in a GOP House, founded on "the politics of contempt," that now "resembles a failed state." Of course, politics in Canada are still politics: Before the election, Conservatives lobbed some modest attacks against Fergus: He vocally defended Trudeau during 2016's "Elbow-gate," when the PM inadvertently elbowed a lawmaker, and breached the Conflict of Interest Act by writing a letter of support for a French-speaking TV station; he later apologized for the "unintentional error." All in all, pretty small civil potatoes compared to, say, a violent coup seeking to overthrow the government.

Still, Fergus' rise did prompt some grumbling, largely, shockingly from the right. Commentators called the election of the first Black Speaker "a gimmick for upcoming elections" to help a besieged Trudeau, arguing Fergus "checks (every) virtue- signaling and corruption box" for Liberals and New Democrats. One jaundiced editorial scoffed uproar like that over the hapless Nazi "typically provoke(s) cries for more civility in politics...They never last long before MPs from all parties return to their partisan ways. Fergus’ election won’t change that." Maybe. But from the perspective of a House beholden to the jeering, pompadoured, unprincipled likes of chaos agent Matt Gaetz, Fergus' victory looked pretty congenial, if not downright jolly. After the vote result was announced, Jagmeet Singh, a Sikh human rights attorney who heads the progressive New Democratic Party and argues, "If one person is suffering, we are all suffering" - no, we don't have him here either - lauded Fergus, "one of the friendliest members of Parliament," for his "incredible feat of representation." Citing kids "who have come here and not seen themselves in the pictures on the walls," he noted, "That’s going to change when people walk these halls (and) they are one day going to see your face."

Subterranean grievances notwithstanding, Fergus' win was widely celebrated: Smiling colleagues gave him a standing ovation, staff members giddily high-fived, Liberal, NDP and Bloc Québécois members hugged him; even some Conservative MPS did, though leader Pierre Poilievre got in a jibe about needing to restrain the "primordial" power of Liberal leadership. Then, in a bizarre, Colonialism-tinged custom, Trudeau and Poilievre hooked arms with the grinning Fergus to faux-drag him to power. Historians say the practice of "gentle persuasion" dates from when a Speaker had to convey House news to a monarch not always happy to hear it; from 1394 and 1535, seven Speakers were purportedly beheaded - three, most notably Sir Thomas More, by a cranky Henry VIII. After the reign of Mary l, "the last really unreasonable monarch," the custom morphed into a vaudevillian march to the Speaker's chair. There, casually moving between French and English - monolingual America, take note - Fergus thanked colleagues for "this great honor." In a hockey analogy, he vowed to work tirelessly as a "referee" to ensure "respect and decorum" without which "there can be no dialogue." "Respect is a fundamental part of what we do here," he said, "to (show) Canadians that politics is a noble profession." From this ravaged, rancorous side of the border: Oh please, please, make it so.

Greg Fergus elected 1st Black Canadian House Speaker, replaces Rota |

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.