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Politics – Dr. Shadd

Dr. Shadd first attempted to get involved in politics in the 1902 Northwest Territories election when he ran as a Conservative candidate. He was defeated but appears to have maintained friendly relations with the successful candidate, F. W. Meyers. He ran on a platform of decentralized government and local autonomy. He appears to have believed Ottawa did not understand the lived realities of rural settlers on the prairies.

In 1905, he ran in the provincial election for the government of the newly established province of Saskatchewan. He lost by only 52 votes. Had he won, he would have been the first Black person elected to a provincial legislature in Canada. (The individual who holds that title is Leonard Braitwaite, who won a seat in Ontario in 1963. As of 2021 there has never been a Saskatchewan MLA of African descent.)

Even when not directly involved in the political landscape as an elected official, he presented ideas to councils. In 1909, he was the one to propose a local telephone system for the town, a motion which was passed by council. His drugstore provided space for the telephone system’s switchboard.

Digging up the street to add sewer lines to Melfort, c. 1912. Photo: Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan R-A2080. Click to enlarge.

He served on the Melfort town council from 1910 to 1911. In his time as councillor, he advocated for the installation of sewer and water lines in Melfort. In 1912, he campaigned to get electricity for the town of Melfort. Both of these efforts were successful and Melfort was an early adopter of sewer and water lines. Electricity also came to Melfort due to the efforts of Dr. Shadd.

Though his territorial and provincial political career never got off the ground, Dr. Shadd worked hard in his municipal political career and brought about many positive changes to the town of Melfort. He had strong political views and was committed to improving the circumstances of the people of Saskatchewan.

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