Blazing a trail to city hall in Brandon

Sunday Frangi sworn in as Prairie city's first Black councillor

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Sunday Frangi comes from a family of politicians. A life in politics makes this newcomer feel right at home.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/05/2021 (442 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Sunday Frangi comes from a family of politicians. A life in politics makes this newcomer feel right at home.

Last week, years of jumping hurdles and hard work resulted in a historic win. Frangi was sworn in as Brandon’s first Black city councillor.

In Sudan, his father was a politician, as are some of his extended family. When Frangi immigrated to Winnipeg from Sudan in 2004, he hoped to follow suit. First those hurdles: learning English, getting his high school diploma, studying at the University of Manitoba.

SUPPLIED Brandon Coun. Sunday Frangi comes from a family of politicians.

“When I moved to Canada, I didn’t really have anything … it was tough to get into a new society,” Frangi told the Free Press.

He got involved with the Liberal party in 2014, first as a volunteer and then as a member. In 2019, he moved to Brandon, where he worked with local grassroots organizations while staying involved with the Liberals. He ran in the Brandon West riding in the 2019 provincial election after being asked to run by the Liberal party while working as a campaign manager. He ended up losing the race to Progressive Conservative Reg Helwer, but he was undeterred.

“I was preparing myself for future elections, I thought this would be a great time to bring my thoughts to the community, so the community could get to know me,” he said.

When health issues forced Brandon city councillor John LoRegio to step down in January, Frangi threw his name in the running for the by-election.

Frangi said he hoped the decision of voters sends a message to newcomers living in Brandon who may want to pursue the same path.

“It’s going to change the face of this city, it’s going to change the way things are being done,” he said. “It’s going to give a lot of immigrants the opportunity, and the courage, to get involved in their community.”

Brandon mayor Rick Chrest said Frangi is the only immigrant he can recall holding a city council position. It was a proud moment for council, and for the city as a whole, he said.

“I think that Coun. Frangi will help to blaze the trail for other new Canadians in our city to get involved in office,” he said.

Chrest said the cultural makeup in Brandon is relatively similar to Winnipeg, owing in part to a boom in immigrants moving to the city in recent years.

“Not a lot of people throughout the province understand the level of diversity that Brandon has risen to over the last 20 years, we’ve had a very significant surge in newcomers,” he said.

Frangi said he reached out to minority organizations in Brandon after moving to the city to get a feel of the community and was concerned to hear there weren’t many people of colour in politics.

Discussions on improving outreach from Brandon city council to marginalized citizens are already underway, Chrest said, noting the city had discussed translating its materials into more languages and working with local immigrant non-profit Westman Immigrant Services to improve the connection between municipal government and its newcomer constituents.

Even as he addressed city council, Frangi spoke about the importance of using their platform to open a dialogue for social issues in Brandon.

“I believe the more we talk about things, the better,” he said. “As a city councillor now, I don’t think anything is changing my perspective on how I see things, and I don’t think anything will change the way I speak about issues. It’s what I believe in.”

Don Boddy, the manager of small centre support, for the Manitoba Association of Newcomer Serving Organizations has seen a small but notable shift in newcomers living outside of Winnipeg. According to the association’s data, 5 per cent more newcomers immigrated to rural areas in 2019 than in 2015. Slowly but surely, he said, that shift will become more visible.

“I think part of the reality is that newcomers, and newcomer communities, need time to establish,” he said. “You see it happening more and more throughout rural Manitoba, that there’s more engagement.”

“Integration means not only sitting at the table, but participating in preparing the meal,” he said.

“So for communities to be welcoming, and to open up those places for integration, and not be always giving to the poor newcomer but allowing the newcomer to also participate in preparing the meal, and setting the table and having direction on what we eat … I think it’s coming, I see it changing very slowly.”

malak.abas@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: malakabas_

Malak Abas

Malak Abas
Reporter

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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