Liberal MP Greg Fergus was elected to the prestigious position on Tuesday, an occasion Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called “historic.”
“Greg Fergus not only brings a wealth of experience to this role, he is the first Black Canadian to become Speaker of the House of Commons – an inspiration to all Canadians, especially younger generations who want to get involved in politics,” Trudeau said in a statement.
Fergus, 54, represents the west Quebec riding of Hull–Aylmer. He is the 38th Speaker in Canadian history and is also the first person of colour to be elected to the role.
The speaker’s main role is to maintain order in the House of Commons. They only take part in votes in case of a tie, do not participate in debates and work to ensure all members of Parliament are able to voice their opinions during debates.
With those debates often devolving into bickering and heckling, the hope is that Fergus will be able to improve decorum among his colleagues.
“Respect and decorum — I’m going to be working hard on this and I need all your help to make this happen,” he said in his first remarks after being elected.
“Respect is a fundamental part of what we do here. We need to make sure that we treat each other with respect and we show Canadians that example. There can be no dialogue unless there’s a mutual understanding of respect.”
The previous speaker, Anthony Rota, resigned last week. He invited 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka to the House for a visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Rota introduced Hunka as a war hero who fought for the First Ukrainian Division and Hunka was given a standing ovation — but it was later revealed that he had fought for a Nazi military unit during World War II.
Fergus’ grandfather immigrated to Canada from Montserrat before that war, first joining the Royal Canadian Air Force and then settling in Little Burgundy. Fergus grew up in Dollard-des-Ormeaux and Outremont and went to school in Montreal before moving to Ottawa to go to university.
His interest in politics took root early, he once told the Ottawa Citizen. He had a subscription to Hansard, the record of parliamentary and legislative debates, as a teenager.
“When I found you could subscribe by mail and it was free, I was in,” he said.
While in Ottawa, he served as a parliamentary page — a program open to students in the national capital region that allows them to work with members of Parliament and learn about the inner workings of the legislature. He eventually became the leader of the Young Liberals of Canada and has served as the national director of the
He was first elected to
Parliament in 2015. He has served as the parliamentary secretary to Trudeau and parliamentary secretary to other ministers and is also chair of the Parliament’s “Black Caucus.”
Fergus’ wife, Julie Cool, grew up in Chateauguay, and the couple has three adult children and one grandson.