Canada’s 1st trans mayor elected in village west of Montreal

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The small village of Très-Saint-Redempteur, Que., near the Ontario border, is known for its towering historical Catholic church — and now, for being home to Canada’s first openly transgender mayor.

The election of Julie Lemieux last Sunday flew under the radar as the surprising victory of Valérie Plante, Montreal’s first elected woman mayor, stole the headlines.

“People needed renewal in the village, and they decided to choose me to incarnate that change,” said Lemieux, who won 48 per cent of the Très-Saint-Redempteur vote in the Nov. 5 provincewide municipal elections.

Lemieux isn’t only the first known trans person to be elected in Canada, she is the first woman to be elected in her municipality, founded in 1881.

Openness in Quebec’s villages, too

“It shows something we don’t necessarily see in the media: in the villages, too, there is acceptance and social openness,” Lemieux, 45, told Radio-Canada.

She said the fact she was born a man “is an open secret” in Très-Saint-Redempteur.

Some supporters of the opposition tried to marginalize her candidacy, but it didn’t work. She said she didn’t feel judged as she went around meeting constituents.

Voter turnout in the village of fewer than 1,000 was high — 70 per cent — considering many municipal elections in Quebec’s small communities go acclaimed, and the province’s average voter turnout hovers at around 45 per cent.

Très-Saint-Redempteur resident Chantal Brault said she’s happy with the village’s new mayor.

“We really needed change,” Brault told CBC News over the phone Friday, though she preferred not to reveal who she voted for.

“The town’s spirit had stopped, it was the old guard.”

Backyard chickens a key election issue

A key election issue in the village has been whether to allow chickens in residents’ backyards, something Lemieux has supported on social media.

Brault said the old administration was trying to run Très-Saint-Redempteur like a big city. New councillors, who’d aligned themselves with Lemieux, were also elected.

“Her orientation doesn’t change anything for me. We don’t look at that, we look at her skills,” she said, noting she’d met Lemieux a couple times.

Brault described her as “jovial,” and said she defended her points well.

Brault acknowledged there’s been a “wind of change” in Quebec, with several female candidates elected to the posts they were vying for.

“We need to make space for women,” Brault said. “It’s competence that’s most important.”

‘Makes me proud’

“I’m realizing people are able to see the difference between ideas, personality and being marginalized in our society,” said Lemieux.

Her identity as a trans woman did not feature in her campaign, but the fact that she is the first elected to a mayoral post in the country “makes me proud,” she said.

“I am elected in a small village of 920 souls, in western Quebec, and you can see that mores change, that it’s become banal. People see skills before status.”

Lemieux knew she was “feminine by nature” around the age of six or seven, she says, and her transition began at 29, when she lived in Drummondville.

A cabinetmaker by trade, Lemieux was 37 when she moved to Très-Saint-Redempteur. She became a municipal councillor four years later, in 2013.

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Canada’s 1st trans mayor elected in village west of Montreal

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