He lived there until he was three years old before moving with his family to Dakar, Senegal, where he spent most of his childhood. Then in January 2000, he moved to Moncton, New Brunswick, and since then has never left “the beautiful province.” Though he has visited different cities in New Brunswick, he has decided to call the town of Shippagan home, where he is now mayor.
I grew up in New Brunswick. Given how small the population of Shippagan is, the day Kassim Doumbia was elected, I was genuinely flabbergasted.
Doumbia describes Shippagan as “a coastal town of 2,672 inhabitants. The city is about 5 km long and at most 5 km wide. It is bordered to the northwest by Shippagan Bay, north by Shippagan Harbour, east by the Gulf of St. Lawrence and west by St. Simon Bay. You can easily get around on foot or by bicycle. Shippagan has an elementary, middle, and high school, a university campus at the Université de Moncton—Shippagan campus and a college campus at the New Brunswick Community College of the Acadian Peninsula. Shippagan has a 2 km long walkway facing the water, a 3.5 km paved bicycle path, a municipal campground, a significant fishing industry and an open-air art gallery.” Some highlights hosted in Shippagan include the Acadian Peninsula Book Fair, the Provincial Fisheries and Aquaculture Festival, and the Ice Carnival.” Doumbia also notes a diverse community in Shippagan due to the international professors at Université de Moncton— Shippagan Campus, the international students attending the university and foreign workers. For example, there are few people from Ivory Coast or Senegal, but a large community from the Maghreb (Algeria, Maroc, Tunisie).
Doumbia originally came to Canada to study at Université de Moncton at their Moncton campus but moved to the northeast part of the province for a work opportunity. While there, he met his wife from Shippagan and decided to move close to her family.
In these 22 years in New Brunswick, Doumbia says he has not experienced any racism, “I always treat people with respect and dignity, and I expect the same in return. But, of course, we can agree to disagree, but there is a way to do things.”
Before running for Mayor, Doumbia worked in various fields, including being an economic development officer. Growing up, Doumbia was always interested in politics, but that interest piqued while working alongside Shippagan politicians. Doumbia was the executive assistant of Paul Robichaud, who was the former vice-premier of New Brunswick and MLA for Shippagan-Lamèque-Miscou riding for four years. That experience allowed Kassim to work closely with his community, learn a lot from Mr. Robichaud about politics and government programs, and directly help the constituents throughout the maze of programs and their concerns. “I was always interested in politics because politics dictate the change in our society. However, I became much more interested in politics when I worked for the Deputy Premier and MLA for Shippagan-Lamèque-Miscou, Paul Robichaud. Seeing how you can influence public policy and bring solutions to improve the lives of citizens in general. And for me, politics is how you can make a difference to improve your community and help people.”
Doumbia ran a political campaign built on "values that are fundamental” to him, “namely collaboration, mutual aid, and respect.
“I had three priorities: social, economic, and environmental, and the community is at the heart of all three.
It's about creating an environment conducive to our youth's participation in municipal development and affairs and collaborating on housing developments that meet the financial needs of our citizens.
It's about creating an environment that promotes economic recovery, maintains sustainable partnerships, and encourages investment from regional entrepreneurs.
It's also about growing the population, implementing the climate change adaptation plan, upgrading our sports infrastructure, constructing a new bridge, and better facilities for students at our local schools." He adds, "The challenge is to find the perfect ingredients to promote economic growth, respect for the environment, housing creation, population growth and a favourable environment for youth, families, and seniors."
While Doumbia was admittedly shocked to hear there had never been a Black mayor in New Brunswick before, he didn’t run in hopes of making history,
“For me being mayor is for the people. My involvement in the community has made me stand out, and I thank all the citizens for their trust. However, I still believe there should be more diversity at different political levels in New Brunswick. This would show that people are well established and aware of the issues that New Brunswickers face daily and that no matter where we come from, we want to work together to improve things.”
When Doumbia won the mayoral election, he and his family were overjoyed, “It was a history page that had just been written, being the first Black mayor in Shippagan. It was a great source of pride for me, my wife, and my two daughters. It showed that with goodwill, perseverance, hard work, willingness, open-mindedness, and determination, nothing is impossible for the one who wants to undertake it.”
Having a Black mayor has increased visibility for minority communities in Shippagan and has encouraged a more inclusive township. “Racialized people in Shippagan were happy [Doumbia won the election] as well. I can’t say for sure if my election made a difference in their political interest, but it gave them greater visibility.”
Doumbia was elected the night of Tuesday, May 25, 2021. Unfortunately, because of recent major local governance reform, Shippagan has to go to an election on November 28, 2022. Kassim says, "I was elected with the new council for a four-year term, and I did one year. So, I am running again because I did not have a chance with the council and the municipal administration to put forward our vision. But, the work was just the beginning, and I wanted to be able to make positive changes for my community." After that, Doumbia says, “the sky is the limit.”