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Yolande James

Yolande James
Member of the National Assembly of Quebec for Nelligan
In office
September 20, 2004 – April 7, 2014
Preceded byRussell Williams
Succeeded byMartin Coiteux
Personal details
Born (1977-11-21) November 21, 1977 (age 46)
Montreal, Quebec
Political partyQuebec Liberal Party
CabinetMinister of Immigration and Cultural Communities & Minister Of Family

Yolande James (born November 21, 1977, in Montreal, Quebec) is a former Quebec provincial politician. She was the first black female MNA , the youngest, and the first black cabinet minister in Quebec history.[1] A member of the Quebec Liberal Party, she represented the multicultural riding of Nelligan in the Island of Montreal from 2004 to 2014.


James's father and mother are Canadian citizens who emigrated from St. Lucia and St. Vincent, respectively. She grew up in Montreal's West Island area and went to a francophone primary school. James says she first got involved in politics and with the Quebec Liberal Party during the 1995 Quebec sovereignty referendum campaign.[2]

James received a Bachelor's degree in civil law in 2000 from Université de Montréal and a Bachelor's degree in common law from Queen's University in 2003. She was called to the Bar of Quebec in 2004.

She was a political adviser at the Ministry of Health and Social Services and was the political aid of a former MNA for the Nelligan riding. She also collaborated in a local program which helped youths with learning difficulties.

Political career

She was first elected to the National Assembly of Quebec for the riding of Nelligan in a by-election held on September 20, 2004.[3] She was re-elected in the 2007,[4] 2008, and 2012 general elections.[5]

She was appointed Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities in the minority government cabinet of Quebec Premier Jean Charest in 2007 following the initiative of Jean Charest to represent Anglophones and Cultural Communities in his Cabinet.[6] After Tony Tomassi's sudden resignation in 2010, she was given an additional role in cabinet as Family Minister.[7][8] In August 2010, she retained the Family portfolio in a cabinet shuffle but lost her culture and immigration duties to Kathleen Weil.[9]

When Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois demanded that the province of Quebec have full control over its immigration, James replied that under a bilateral agreement with the national government, Quebec already has all the power it needs to select the economic immigrants it wants.[10]

James publicly entered the controversy over reasonable accommodation by stating that she stood by her decree to bar students from covering their faces with niqabs or burqas in French-language classes. She claimed that "There is no ambiguity about this question. If you want to assist in [attend] our classes and integrate into Quebec society, here are our values. We want to see your face."[11] James's department decreed that Naema Ahmed leave CEGEP St. Laurent when Ahmed declined to remove her niqab during lessons.

However, after James left provincial politics, she stated that her thinking on the niqab had evolved. The district of Saint Laurent, QC, where she sought a federal candidacy in a by-election, was 17 percent Muslim in the 2011 Census of Canada.[12] On February 24, 2014, James announced she was leaving politics and would not seek re-election in the 2014 election.[13][14]

On February 12, 2017, James confirmed on Twitter that she would seek the Liberal Party of Canada's nomination for the Saint-Laurent federal electoral district. However, a 26-year-old high school teacher defeated James for the Liberal nomination in that riding. Emmanuella Lambropoulos beat James and tax law professor Marwah Rizqy to secure the nomination.[15]

Political commentator

James currently provides commentary to several CBC political programs, including as one of four former National Assembly ministers on the noonhour CBC Radio Canada and as a member of the "Power Panel" on Power & Politics, an English-language political program on CBC News Network.[16]

Electoral record

Quebec provincial by-election, September 20, 2004: Nelligan
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Yolande James 7,812 52.58
Independent Michel Gibson 4,038 27.18
Parti Québécois Sahar Hawili 1,538 10.35
Action démocratique Tom Pentefountas 1,039 6.99
Green Ryan Young 251 1.69
UFP Josée Larouche 120 0.81
Bloc Pot Blair Longley 58 0.39
Total valid votes 14,856 100.00
Rejected and declined votes 62
Turnout 14,918 28.60
Electors on the lists 52,163
Sources: Official Results, Government of Quebec


  1. ^ "Women fill half of cabinet in Quebec". The Globe and Mail. April 19, 2007. Retrieved 2015-11-18. Yolande James becomes Quebec's first black minister at Immigration and Cultural Communities.
  2. ^ "Minister breaks age, colour and language barriers". Montreal Gazette. June 17, 2007. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  3. ^ "ADQ wins hard-fought Quebec City by-election". The Globe and Mail. September 21, 2004. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  4. ^ "Quebec Votes 2007: Nelligan". CBC News. March 26, 2007. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  5. ^ "Nelligan constituents give James another strong mandate". The Suburban. September 5, 2012. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  6. ^ "Biography". Dictionnaire des parlementaires du Québec de 1792 à nos jours (in French). National Assembly of Quebec.
  7. ^ "Quebec minister forced to resign over credit card use". The Globe and Mail. May 6, 2010. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  8. ^ "Quebec family minister fired over ethics concerns". CBC News. May 6, 2010. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  9. ^ "One new member, but all familiar faces, in Cabinet shuffle". CTV News. August 11, 2010. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  10. ^ "Let Quebec control its immigration, Marois says". National Post. August 15, 2007. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  11. ^ Wente, Margaret (March 12, 2010). "Two solitudes and the niqab". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  12. ^ "Don Macpherson: The messy Liberal nomination fight in St-Laurent". 4 March 2017.
  13. ^ "3 Liberal MNAs reveal they won't run in next election". CBC News. February 24, 2014. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  14. ^ "Three Liberal MNAs calling it quits". CTV News. February 25, 2014. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  15. ^ "High school teacher beats out Yolande James to win Liberal nomination in Saint-Laurent - CBC News".
  16. ^ Arial, Tracey (19 February 2017). "Yolande James' trajectory from politician to political commentator". The Montrealer. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
Political offices Preceded byLise Theriault Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities 2007–2010 Succeeded byKathleen Weil Preceded byTony Tomassi Minister of Family 2010–present Succeeded byIncumbent
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Yolande James
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