Toronto's municipal election is on October 27th. Ryan O'Neil Knight is running for Brampton Trustee for the Peel School Board in Wards 3 and 4. He answered these questions from our editorial team.
1. What difference would you like to make by entering politics?
The main reason I decided to enter politics was the fact that Politics dictates such a large portion of our lives. I use to ignore it and when there were issues I was facing I would just hope eventually they would get fixed. I want to show our youth that they do have a strong voice and by running myself I can be the beginning of that dialogue.
2. How do you feel this impact would affect the Black community specifically?
I think that Brampton is blessed to have members from the black community involved with public office at the School Trustee level. I believe my impact would be a face that the younger black generation can relate to. There is no one on the board that is under 40 and no one on council that is under 50. Having a face closer to their age group will be a great way to show what potential they have without it looking too daunting.
3. Have you worked with members of the Black community prior to running for office and in what capacity?
My career as an entrepreneur running the Detailing Knights has allowed me to work with the black community to help get our youth employed. Youth that are determined at risk we have put a direct focus on so that they have another option when out their looking for employement. Specifically I use my company to speak to our Black youth through resource centres about the benefits of entrepreneurship and their potential to start their own businesses instead of having to chase jobs.
(a) How do you think your career background/experience will help you in your job as an elected representative?
My background has been engulfed in work with our youth and I believe it allows me to be a more engaged elected official for the students that I will be Trustee for. I want to create an open line of communication between students and the Peel District School Board with myself being that bridge.
4. What issues are you most passionate about, and why?
The biggest issue that I am passionate about is Youth Unemployment. I believe not being employed leads to most of the ailments that face our at risk youth such as;
Trouble with the Law
Not being able to provide for offspring leading to single parent mothers
I believe that entrepreneurship is the best training tool that can lift an unemployed youth out of the title of being "At Risk" and into a space of self sustainability.
5. As a Black candidate, do you feel any responsibility to focus your efforts on issues affecting the Black community? If yes, what do you feel the most pressing issues are?
I don't feel any added pressure externally but internally I believe I can make a strong difference. Ideally becoming a mentor to black youth that could use a helping hand.
6. What is the one thing you plan to achieve if you get elected?
Bridging the gap between our community and schools. Right now there is a strong barrier up from the School Board against local groups and businesses that could add value to the education system. By leveraging these partnerships a school can lighten the load for its teachers and allow them to focus their efforts on their strengths in the classroom instead of trying to be everything to every student.
7. Why, or should members of the Black community get involved with politics?
Politics dictates so much of what happens in our society but we in the black community tend to dismiss it as a white man's realm. I know I grew up thinking that it was not within my scope to be a politician, we are more pushed into entertainment or sports. A big reason that I choose to run this term was my father used to hint at me that I should run for office because of the benefits but I always discarded it. I never thought of myself as a politician until I met Trustee David Smith and he showed me the potential influence that being in office has and how it can amplify your ability to help people.
8. What do you think is the deterrent to economic success in the Black community, and how do you to propose to address this in your ward?
In my opinion we are not tackling issues as a united entity. We still have a me first mentality and I will try to bring the concept of entrepreneurship into my ward that preaches one cannot do everything on their own. We need to become a unit that has a common goal and then puts the right people in the right roles to execute.