Arielle Kayabaga, 28, is the incoming city councillor for ward 13. Kayabaga will be taking the seat left vacant by Tanya Park.
Kayabaga is honoured to be the first black female city councillor in London and hopes to pave the way for other minority groups.
“For some of us it’s not even a glass ceiling, it’s a concrete wall that we have to keep chipping one day at a time until it’s completely broken through,” she said.
“Me breaking through is a good reflection on other young women, other single moms, other people of colour, immigrants, refugees and every single person that feels represented in my identity to keep pushing and to keep breaking through,” she adds.
In conversation with the councillor-elect
If you could solve any issue in the city, what would take priority and why?
First of all just picking one thing is very far-fetched. I think everything together that the city does to service our community is very important; but, for me, it would be housing-ending and preventing homelessness in our community.
I think it’s really important to provide security for people and when people have the security of a house, food, and clean water to drink then they are able to participate in building a vibrant community.
As proved by the 2018 Annual Community Survey, the biggest issue for Londoners is Transit. What is your proposal for better transit?
Transit is an area that needs a lot of attention and I would hope this council sees that and prioritizes it.
A good transit system starts with infrastructure and the way we build our city. Fixing our streets and building a good transit system goes hand in hand. It’s not just dumping a bunch of busses on the street, we have to look at a plan holistically.
I think we need dedicated lanes. That way the busses can run more frequently and people can get to places faster…We also need them to service people later hours. As a woman, I feel like I’d feel safer having busses that run more frequently, especially late at night…A lot of reports for sexual violence against women are being done at bus stops and that’s a huge security issue. I think having a good transit system also provides security for people.
What is an issue that is close to your heart?
As a person who comes from a working class, I think it’s important to feel secure in your life. To have a secure house, secure food and to make sure the basic needs that people need in life are present…So, I think, for me, it’s providing support to the people who need it the most. [That could mean] providing safe injection sites or providing housing. I think responding to the needs of Londoners is something that drives me to do what I’m doing.
Are there any changes you would like to see in the way city council operates?
I do appreciate a lot of the work city council and staff at City Hall do. Maybe the meetings are a little too long. I’m a single mom, so my schedule will be changing a lot. I would love to see every level of government keep in mind that there are women who are working in these spaces, and who are allowed to work in these spaces, and they should always be open to reconsider, restudy, and change the way that we do things in order to accommodate everyone. I’m aware it’s not easy to accommodate everyone, but maybe make the meetings a little shorter.
What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
I’m an artist at heart. I sing and I write poems and songs. During my campaign fundraisers, I actually ended up singing with Chad Price. We did a small duet, but that was as far as I put myself out there. I don’t think that will be seen at council anytime soon!