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Desmond Cole attributes his leadership abilities to his school years when extra-curricular activities like sports teams, theatre, music and student council put him into contact with different experiences and people. “I’ve always been curious about people and that’s what drives me,” he says.
It was these instincts that led him to run as a candidate for Toronto City Council in 2006 where he campaigned on extending the right to vote in municipal elections to non-citizen residents. He says that the platform came to him from residents in his riding who wanted to support him but couldn’t. Cole is both philosophical on the subject and practical.
“Are we a better society if we prevent people from having a say in the services they are using?”
Today he is working to ensure that if he runs for office again, he won’t have to campaign on this issue. As the former project coordinator for I Vote Toronto, he and his team have launched a grassroots effort to bring Toronto in line with 26 countries around the world that recognize the role of extending the right to vote to facilitate the speedy integration of newcomers.
Desmond Cole is a graduate of the inaugural DiverseCity School4Civics program that trains diverse leaders to run for election or manage campaigns. He is also part of DiverseCity Voices, the project’s online rolodex of diverse subject-matter experts for media sources.
“I love the Voices program because it ensures there are a variety of opinions out there that are informed by different perspectives and life experiences. That’s when we get the benefit of diversity,” says Cole.