Jelynn Dela Cruz, Jennifer Chen and Logan Oxenham are among a diverse slate of Manitoba NDP MLAs making their way into the Manitoba Legislature.
23-year-old woman, Chinese-Canadian woman and transgender man are among MLAs joining government
When Jelynn Dela Cruz found out she was going to be representing her own constituency at the Manitoba Legislature, she couldn’t believe it at first.
She had been watching an election night broadcast on Tuesday when she saw a check mark appear on screen next to her leading vote count. That’s when she and her family members instantly began jumping with excitement.
“Even though my family members were already so excited, and I was just feeding off of their energy, I still was in disbelief,” she said.
“It wasn’t until the party called me and my manager called me, came to the room to let us know that what we were seeing was real.”
On Tuesday night, the 23-year-old NDP candidate for Radisson was elected to be one of Manitoba’s next MLAs — the youngest woman believed to have ever held such a seat.
She joins two other soon-to-be NDP MLAs who are making history in Manitoba politics.
It’s something the Gen-Zer doesn’t take lightly.
“There is a debt of gratitude that I have to my family members, my other loved ones, my partner, folks in Radisson who were vulnerable enough to share their stories with me throughout this process,” she said.
Three Manitoba MLAs appear to make history with election wins
Featured VideoNew records are believed to have been set with the election of three new MLAs to the Manitoba legislature. Jelynn Dela Cruz is believed to be the youngest woman elected, Jennifer Chen the first Chinese Canadian and Logan Oxenham the first openly transgender MLA.
Dela Cruz, who’s Filipino, is among a diverse slate of Manitoba NDP MLAs making their way into government. According to the party, 20 of the 34 NDP candidates elected on Tuesday are Indigenous or people of colour, while 14 of the 34 are women or gender-diverse.
Of the total 57 MLAs in the legislative assembly, 26 are new to the job, though one of those 26 is Ron Kostyshyn, who was previously an MLA, but is now returning. Ten of those 26 are from the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives.
Dela Cruz says she hopes her fresh perspective will help amplify the voices of Manitoba’s youth.
“[We] young people have inherited a whole slate of challenges from previous generations when it comes to climate change here in Manitoba, when it comes to health care, cost of living,” Dela Cruz, a former president of the University of Manitoba Students’ Union, told CBC News on Friday.
“One voice that has been distinctly, I think, missed — and if not missed, then not taken seriously — has been youth.”
Like Dela Cruz, Jennifer Chen, the newly elected NDP MLA for Fort Richmond, is potentially making history.
She is believed to be the first Chinese-Canadian MLA in the province. She said she’s hoping she can bring the views of her community to the legislative assembly.
“It’s important to have a voice in the legislature, but it’s important not just to have a seat but to bring [people] together and bring people’s voice to the table,” Chen said.
“I’m very grateful for having this opportunity to represent the diverse Fort Richmond.”
Chen moved to Canada 15 years almost ago to study kinesiology at the University of Manitoba. She got into advocacy work after graduating, and later, politics.
“On campus, I realized that having a voice is very important, especially at the decision-making level,” Chen said.
She’s been a part of several cultural and community organizations over the past decade, including the Women of Colour Community Leadership Initiative, the Asian Heritage Society and the Newcomer Advisory Committee.
‘Exciting time for Manitoba’
As a woman of colour, Chen said it hasn’t been easy to get into politics, but learning to face challenges head-on is what’s gotten her so far.
“People will feel that I’m determined, and I want to make a change. I want to make a difference, and I’m willing to listen to them and to do this. And people respect that,” Chen added.
Also hoping to make a difference is the NDP MLA for Kirkfield Park, Logan Oxenham.
As the first openly transgender person elected as an MLA, he’s looking to be a voice for Manitoba’s trans community.
“Representation matters, and given the current climate, I feel like it’s very important to be visible and to amplify the voices of folks that don’t usually have a platform,” Oxenham told CBC News.
“It’s also important to recognize too that trans folks are resilient, and we belong in spaces like the legislative building.”
Up To Speed7:09Logan Oxenham becomes the first openly trans-man to hold a seat in the Manitoba Legislature.
Featured VideoA record-breaking election for Logan Oxenham, who says trans lives cannot be ignored now that he’ll take a seat in the Manitoba legislature. Faith Fundal speaks with the province’s first openly trans-man to become an MLA.
Oxenham, who is among four MLAs who the party says identify as being part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, has worked as a corrections officer and counsellor for youth. He is the recipient of the Manitoba 150 medal for his advocacy work for transgender Manitobans.
He says he’s excited to be working with such a diverse group of MLAs.
“It’s a really exciting time for Manitoba,” he said. “We have a caucus that is a reflection of the population that it serves, and I think that’s a beautiful thing.”
With files from Ian Froese