Qadira Jackson’s family has been strongly rooted in Scarborough for 40 years. Her parents are immigrants-her father hails from Trinidad, while her mother is from Jamaica.
She has lived in various areas in the Greater Toronto Area but has taken a special interest in Scarborough. “As someone who has lived in Scarborough, I understand the uniqueness and sense of community that makes Scarborough stand out.”
Her mother was a social worker who opened their home to foster kids. “I grew up in a house with three biological brothers and sisters, and due to my mother’s line of work, I lived with more than 150 foster brothers and sisters over the years,” Jackson recalls. “It was tough to hear the stories of abuse and neglect the children went through.”
This unique upbringing shaped Jackson’s personality, inspiring her to give back to the community and understand the importance of strong families. Jackson remembers being raised as a very positive, happy and independent kid. “I was an active girl without limits, so I was always good with tools and I always held the attitude that if a boy could do it, I could too.’”
But when she started school, she became reserved and quiet. “As I was often the only Black child in my class, my school life was traumatic because the other children made me feel like I was different,” Jackson confesses. “I got bothered often and was called the N-word several times, and at that age, it was hard to process discrimination.”
Jackson credits her older sister Jamillah Jackson for helping her cope with the challenges she faced in school. “Since she had to deal with the same issues before me, she used her experience to help me navigate the world and frame things while empowering me to come out of my shell and regain confidence,” Jackson says.
Although she was proficient in math and science, people would always tell her she should become a lawyer because she was assertive and inquisitive. But it was hard for Jackson to make that decision because she didn't see any lawyers that looked like her. “No one in my family or our circle of family friends were lawyers and on television, there were almost no positive Black characters at all in the eighties, let alone Black lawyers,” bemoans Jackson. “So, even though people said I should be a lawyer, it just didn't seem like a realistic goal for me.”
One solid goal that never changed was Jackson’s desire to attend university. She was inspired by her parent’s immigrant story, both of whom arrived in Canada with nothing, without even high school educations, but still managed to attain degrees from York University.
Her experience working in a warehouse as an order picker also influenced her outlook. Most of her co-workers were immigrants, people of colour, and women, and it was disheartening for her to see how much stress and fear they experienced as their productivity was rated daily. If they were slow or made an error, they would get a low score that could result in the loss of their jobs.
With these experiences as motivation, Jackson attended university, ultimately completing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work, and a Certificate in Dispute resolution from York University. After all that, she went on to obtain a law degree from the University of Windsor.
In conjunction with her Social Work Degree, Jackson completed a practicum in child protection at Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, as well as another practicum with the Woman Abuse Council of Toronto working in the area of domestic violence.
Jackson went on to work as a social worker in detention centers, homeless shelters, group homes, foster homes and elementary schools. She has also worked in intake for probation, hospitality, bartending, private investigation, security, and retail.
After completing Law school, Jackson articled with the Canadian Union of Public Employees in the area of labour law. She has been practicing law for ten years and is now the principal lawyer and owner of Jaxon Law Professional Corporation.
In the ten years she has been practicing law, Jackson has practiced in family, immigration, litigation and employment law. Currently, the majority of her practice deals with real estate, wills and estates, and corporate cases.
Volunteer and Extracurricular Activities
In law school, Jackson was actively involved in different initiatives. She was on the executive board of the Black Law Students Association of Canada and was a member of the Students Against Anti-Black Racism Steering Committee. She volunteered with Pro Bono Canada, the Law Enforcement Accountability Project, and the Family Law Information Centre. She was also selected to partake in Windsor Law’s Mediation Clinic.
Actively engaged in the community, Jackson has been on the board for the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, the Canadian Association of Urban Financial Professionals, and Black Pearls Community Services. She was also a member of the Law Society Ontario’s Equity Advisory Group and played a key role as a Community Liaison as part of the Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Project with the Law Society Ontario.
Years later, Jackson is still very much engaged in the community through volunteer work. She is currently a Councillor with the Professional Engineers Ontario where she sits on the Anti-Racism and Equity Working Group as well as the Discipline Committee where she is an Arbitrator, conducting discipline hearings. She is also on the executive board of the West Scarborough Neighbourhood Community Center as well as her church’s parish council. She is the president of the Scarborough-Guildwood Provincial Liberal Association, and co-founder and member of the Black Opportunity Fund.
“The Black community is not one monolithic community. It’s many communities, from so many different countries, so it is inherently more difficult to unify us,” Jackson explains about the Association. Despite this, Jackson and another Black Provincial Liberal riding president, (Claudia McKoy), will be launching the Black Liberal Association Ontario very soon.
The pandemic has further revealed and emphasized the need for assistance amongst the most marginalized populations. For that reason, Jackson intends to work on food security initiatives and policy, mental health issues and recovery efforts for small businesses that have been hit the hardest.
Challenge as a Black, Professional Woman
According to Jackson, people make presumptions about her as a Black woman, usually related to her competency. “There have been incidents in which my clients enter my office and seem surprised, and at times, even disappointed to find out that their lawyer is Black.” Nonetheless, she believes that times are changing and has experienced a positive shift over the last few years.
As a self-employed person, Jackson chooses to structure her days in a way that allows her to eat dinner with her family on most days and pick up where she left off after the children are sleeping. Despite the flexible arrangement, keeping a work-life balance is still a challenge. ”When I had my first son, I brought him to workshops and other events, but my husband usually attends these events as well to allow me the opportunity to be with my son and work or volunteer at the same time.”
Jackson also finds time to read. The book that changed her life is "The Four Agreements", by Don Miguel Ruiz. “The book reminds you that you can never fail if you always follow the agreement to (1) Be impeccable with your words, (2) Never make assumptions, (3) Don’t take things personally, and (4) Always do your best,” she states.
Jackson also likes creating and fixing things. In her spare time, she enjoys DIY projects, working with tools, painting furniture, and sewing. One thing that would likely surprise people is that she is an avid trained rock climber having taken lessons since she was a child.
Introduction to Politics
When Jackson was in law school, her father was the Director of Membership in Scarborough-Guildwood Provincial Liberal Association and was assisting Margarett R. Best. He suggested Jackson volunteer to better understand how politics work. Jackson started off stapling polling station documents, then started to make friends and enjoyed the campaign organization processes. Afterwards, she started to attend the provincial Liberal Association meeting and ended up joining the executive. Subsequently, she became the parliamentarian, vice president, and later the president.
“Politics is a way to build on the education and experience I have, and it allows me to help in new ways,” Jackson says. After volunteering in two of Margarett’s campaigns and three of Mitzie Hunter’s campaigns Jackson believes she has a realistic view of what to expect in the political sphere. These experiences have also motivated her to get involved and ultimately run to be the next MPP in Scarborough Southwest.
“Advocating as a social worker is what truly motivated me to become a Lawyer. That experience is also the reason why I’m seeking to be the next Liberal MPP in Scarborough Southwest,” announces Jackson.
Jackson is confident that she has the most essential quality that any politician needs; an ability to listen. “I've always had very good listening skills and I'm a fixer. I think that it is a natural personality trait that will lend support to being an MPP, because you can’t advocate for somebody until you fully understand what the issue is, and you can’t fully understand the issue until you listen.”
Jackson launched her election campaign during Black History Month because Black history is an important time for her. “I wanted to celebrate being Black and being a Black candidate by launching my campaign during Black History Month. Also, I thought it was important for me to do that because we need more Black Members in Provincial Parliament.”
Jackson calls Scarborough “a unique place” with a very strong sense of community and family. She believes that it’s important for the MPP in Scarborough Southwest to understand the disparity of experiences in the riding, depending on where you live in the riding, the amount of poverty and food insecurity in the riding, and how much work needs to be done.
One of Jackson’s priorities after winning is childcare. She believes that adequate and affordable childcare is important so parents can work. “It's good for mental health and it’s good for the economy,” Jackson asserts.
Her other priority is to re-implement free tuition that was originally implemented by the Liberal Party and cancelled by the Progressive Conservative Party. “It is quite concerning when I hear from students that had to drop out of school because they couldn’t afford to continue without free tuition,” Jackson stresses.
Jackson also wants to address issues affecting immigrants who lack Canadian job experience. Specifically, the difficulty of finding that first job, and finding employment matching their education. “Oftentimes, the HR professional is the gatekeeper in terms of who gets an interview and who gets hired,” says Jackson.
In addition, she wants to tackle racism in education to ensure that children receive the right guidance in pursuing different careers. “It’s sad the number of people of colour who have expressed being misguided in school by guidance counsellors,” states Jackson, whose intention is to talk openly with young people about her experiences in the hopes they can become empowered by her story.
Having worn so many hats in her life, Jackson seems to believe that she can identify with almost anybody. It’s her goal to reach out to all communities to better understand the needs of the constituents she is seeking support from and encourages the Black community to get involved by coming out to vote.