Principal of Concordia’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute Shares Plans For Political Career

Kimberley Manning on the Future of the Institute, Liberal Party of Canada, and a “Feminist Parliament”

Manning hopes to continue her advocacy work as the Member of Parliament for the riding of Outremont in Canada’s House of Commons. Courtesy Sabrina Reeves

Making the transition to politics has been a long time coming for Kimberley Manning.

Manning, who has served as the principal of Concordia’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute since the beginning of 2016, explained that because policy is so heavily intertwined with the work that she does as a political science professor, researcher, and transgender rights advocate, becoming a politician has always been at the back of her mind.

“I always thought there might be a day when I would do this,” she said.

As a professor, Manning “felt as though [she] was missing a key ingredient in what really makes me come to life.”

It was through her advocacy work, particularly her involvement in the recent passing of Bill C-16, that she realized participating in policy debate is “when I get on fire,” she continued. Bill C-16, an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code, added gender expression and identity to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination when it was passed in Senate in May 2016.

She also acknowledged that her ability to speak and advocate on such platforms comes from a place of privilege, which serves as a greater motivation to make the jump into politics professionally.

“There are specific forms of privilege which have enabled me to have the confidence and oumf to say, ‘I’m going to present to the Senate of Canada,” she said, citing her financial stability, whiteness, her level of education, and her family’s past involvement in politics. “I have all those pieces. Of course this is what I’m doing!”

Manning continued that the current government structures “don’t enable all people to be able to engage in these systems” and that she sees this as an opportunity “to challenge the way these systems operate.”

However, there are still some roadblocks in her way. For example, she said she still considers Mandarin to be her second language after English, not French. And while she is campaigning for the nomination, she explained that she is still teaching and researching, so she must plan her time accordingly.

The Feminist University is in Good Hands

While Manning still has ways to go before making the jump—she announced her candidacy for the Liberal Party of Canada’s nomination for the riding of Outremont on Feb. 26, meaning she still has to win the nomination and the by-election before making a move to Ottawa—she said that she will make sure the Simone de Beauvoir Institute is in good hands.

“I’m working hard to put pieces into place for funding, for leadership structures so that the work can continue whether I’m here or not and the Simone de Beauvoir [Institute] will continue whether I’m here or not,” she explained.

She specifically referenced the recently-launched Critical Feminism and Activism Research Project, for which she serves as the faculty lead. This project, she explained, is the basis for her vision of a feminist university—an idea that she says Concordia is opening up to.

“The university is beginning to move and see the importance of addressing questions of equity and inclusion,” she said. “The funding is the key piece.”

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Manning also mentioned the hiring of new professors—one last year and another this year—as a means of ensuring that progress will continue at the institute.

Overall, she is not worried about its continued well-being. “The institute was the jewel in the crown of Concordia long before I even turned up.”

She specified, however, that she plans on maintaining her position at the university until (and if) she wins the nomination, after which she would step down temporarily while campaigning for the by-election.

Political Priorities

When asked what’s next, Manning responded: “A feminist parliament.”

In addition to continuing to advocate for trans rights, Manning said one of her priorities would be nationalized daycare. Enabling parents to go back to work or continue working plays a huge role in establishing true equality, she said.

“It makes all the difference, especially for women, for single mothers,” she explained, saying that she sees it as “the big one for moving forward, for realizing a feminist vision for the future of the country.”

She also explained that she chose to run for the Liberal Party because that is where she feels as though she can have the most impact, something she noted throughout her work with their politicians during her Bill C-16 advocacy work and her time as an academic.

“I see right now, with the Liberals, the most progressive government we’ve had in 40 years,” she said. “You see effective communication happening on the ground.”