Anti-violence advocate Louise Russo is throwing her hat in the political ring and is looking to become the next MPP for York Centre.
Russo, who was left paralyzed below the waist after being struck by a stray bullet in 2004, told Global News Wednesday that she is seeking the provincial York Centre Liberal nomination in order to run in the June election. She officially filed her papers with the riding association more than a week and a half ago.
“It’s something the community has been asking me for many, many years, and I’ve always said no,” Russo said.
“I feel that it’s time because I’ve been doing so much advocating and I’m tired of hitting brick walls all the time – and I thought, you know what, I need to get in there and make those changes myself.”
Russo must first win the Liberal nomination in York-Centre — a riding held by the Liberals since 1985 under Monte Kwinter, who is the oldest serving MPP ever at Queen’s Park. He announced his retirement this year.
Senior Liberal sources told Global News the York-Centre nomination is “wide open” with no “preferred candidate.”
Russo was standing in a sandwich shop in North York when she was hit by a stray bullet during a drive-by shooting. She was given $2,000,000 in restitution and created the non-profit organization Working Against Violence Everyday (WAVE) in 2006.
WATCH: Who is Louise Russo?
“WAVE is working against violence every day,” Russo said. “What we do is recognize youth who’ve made a difference at community and schools through anti-violence initiatives. And it’s all about empowering youths and giving them choices and making sure that they’ll, not to give up.”
Known for her advocacy, Russo was invited by Mayor John Tory as a special guest to address the first meeting of the 2014-2018 term of Toronto city council.
If elected, Russo said she plans to focus on being a “stronger” voice for victims of crime and for youth advocacy and engagement. She also said she wants to push for improved accessibility across the province — something she has experience first-hand.
“I”m tired of hitting brick walls, I really am,” she said.
“We need some change and I just feel it’s the right time for me.”
Russo said even though the Ontario Liberal Party has its challenges, she chose to run for under that banner because that’s what she’s “always been.”
“It’s just something — it’s been part of me all these years and I just wanted to go down this path,” she said.
“Every party has its challenges for sure, but I’m going to work on the positive things of government and some of the things that are really heartfelt for me and need changing for the community, for our riding, and I think for a lot of Ontarians.”
Russo said she has no trepidation about joining the political world since she has been through “enough challenges” in her life.
The local riding association is expected to decide shortly when the nomination will take place.
The provincial election is set for June 7.
—With files from James Armstrong