Η στήλη «Πορτραίτα Ομογενών» παρουσιάζει αυτή την εβδομάδα τη βουλευτή Maria Fragiadakis, μια πολιτικό που τονίζει όπου και αν βρίσκεται την ελληνική καταγωγή της και είναι πολύ συχνά παρούσα σε εκδηλώσεις της ομογένειας.
Μεγαλωμένη σε ελληνική οικογένεια, στην καρδιά της ομογένειας, την Danforth, η Maria Fragiadakis κοιτάζει πίσω στα παιδικά της χρόνια και στις αξίες που πήρε από την ελληνική κληρονομιά της και παραδέχεται πως αυτές της έδωσαν το έναυσμα να ασχοληθεί με την πολιτική. Με την εκλογή της στο City Council το 2010 και την επανεκλογή της το 2014, έγινε η πρώτη πολιτικός, και μάλιστα γυναίκα, που εκπροσωπεί την παροικία μας στο Δημοτικό Συμβούλιο του Τορόντο. Από τότε εκπροσωπεί επάξια το ρόλο της ως γυναίκα σε ένα δύσκολο, ανδροκρατούμενο περιβάλλον, αλλά και το ρόλο της ως ελληνίδα πολιτικός στο πολυπολιτισμικό Τορόντο. Εκτός από μέλος του Δημοτικού συμβουλίου, ανήκει στο Συμβούλιο του TTC και έχει εκλεγεί Πρόεδρος του Κοινοτικού Συμβουλίου του Toronto και του East York.
Η Maria Fragiadakis δείχνει εμπράκτως την στήριξή της και την αγάπη της για την παροικία και τη συναντάμε συχνά σε εκδηλώσεις της κοινότητας, των συλλόγων και των σχολείων μας. Αναγνωρίζει τη σκληρή δουλειά που γίνεται εκ μέρους αυτών των οργανισμών ούτως ώστε να κρατηθεί ζωντανός ο Ελληνισμός στον Καναδά. Βλέπει με αισιοδοξία το μέλλον του ελληνικού πολιτισμού στον Καναδά και βρίσκει την ελπίδα στο νέο μεταναστευτικό κύμα από την Ελλάδα.
- Please describe briefly how it was growing up Greek for you. How has your background and culture impacted your decision to enter politics?
Growing up in a Greek family in the Danforth area gave me powerful community values. It fostered in me a strong sense of civic-mindedness, responsibility, accountability and a passion for fairness that helped lead to my decision to run for political office. My Hellenic values taught me to fight for what is right and that collective decision-making and action – despite the complexities and challenges of working with so many diverse interests – is critical to everyone’s success and happiness.
Greeks are very proud of Greece being the birthplace of democracy. Democracy can never be taken for granted, though. It must be strengthened and enhanced. That is why I have always supported better and more thorough public consultation and electoral reform through public consultation. Democracy faces threats now, even in North America and Europe, and we must work together to protect democracy and be wary of taking the easy way out on any issue.
- What are some of the milestones in your political career and how did they impact the Greek-Canadian community in general?
Of course, the biggest milestone in my political career was getting elected to City Council in 2010 and my subsequent re-election in 2014.
As the first Greek-Canadian to represent GreekTown on Toronto City Council, I was able to help Greek-Canadian agencies (and many non-Greek groups in my ward) better understand the workings of City Hall and related agencies.
As well, I believe I am the first Greek-Canadian woman elected in Toronto and that makes me a role model for many women especially the children of immigrants. I think it is so important for young women to have positive role models.
Sadly, there is still a glass ceiling in politics in Canada as there is elsewhere. Though making up about half of the population, women make up less than a third of Toronto City Council and the percentage of women MPs, for example, is even lower.
Some of the other key milestones in my career include being elected by City Council to key roles here at City Hall like the Board of the TTC and Vice-Chair of Toronto and East York Community Council. I think these appointments and my election represents a certain coming of age for the Greek-Canadian community.
- What do you see as challenges that the multitude of Greek Associations face for their representation in the Canadian reality?
The Greek Associations in Toronto are doing a great job of taking on challenges and delivering meaningful service to the community.
Like any association or group, they face the challenge of staying relevant for younger generations while remaining true to their core values. That said, I think the rich and complex history of Greece has enshrined in our cultural organizations a remarkable adaptability and capacity for perseverance.
The Oxi Day parade is a great example of this – it is as relevant today as it ever was. It offers something meaningful for understanding the future even as we honour our past.
Since the economic crisis of 2008, there has been a lot of immigration from Greece and this brings a new energy to the Greek community in Canada. The new immigrants represent 21st century Greece and so keep the Greek-Canadian experience fresh, modern and dynamic.
- How would you advise Greek – Canadian parents who are new to Canada to help them in their efforts of preserving the Greek Heritage and at the same time adjust to Canadian reality with the least impact on them and their children’s sense of belonging?
Advice to parents on a matter of this nature is a life journey and I am not sure I could sum it up in a few words.
The Greeks who are new to Canada should not have too much difficulty preserving their heritage. Diversity is celebrated in Toronto. As I pointed out, the new arrivals from Greece infuse contemporary Greek culture into the Greek-Canadian community and thus keep it vibrant and relevant.
As a City Councillor, I am always supportive of programs like the TDSB’s Greek Heritage Month and Hellenism endeavours at the University of Toronto. Similarly, I think it is important to support and embrace Greek cultural events – Canadian Hellenic Week of Culture and the Greek Film Festival are two very important initiatives.
As the daughter of Greek immigrants, I have always found the Greek-Canadian identity to be a strong and dynamic one.
- Are you optimistic about the future of Hellenism in Canada? Please elaborate
Yes, largely in part because of the new wave of immigrants from Greece. Many have settled into Ward 29. They help us all keep the flame of Hellenism burning bright.
When you combine that with the work of groups like the Greek Community of Toronto and many of our Greek media outlets, I am very optimistic.
Hellenic culture has much to offer Canada. The tight bonds and open minds of the many talented and dedicated community-minded people engaging with one another and learning from one another will ultimately strengthen many facets of our community.