Quebec solidaire’s Camille St-Laurent wants voters to see beyond the fact that she cannot.
The left-leaning sovereigntist party touts St-Laurent, 23, as the first visually impaired candidate to seek office in Quebec provincial politics.
St-Laurent is proud to be running, regardless of whether she is the first, and comfortable with the idea she could inspire others.
But she also wants electors to look past her disability.
“I want people to see beyond that and what I can give to them – all the experience I’ve had in my life, I want to share with them,” she said in an interview.
The political novice decided last winter to seek election in the Oct. 1 provincewide vote after consulting friends and family.
Just four years ago, running in politics would have been an afterthought for the native of Granby, Que. That’s when a newlywed St-Laurent lost her vision after several surgeries for detached retinas.
St-Laurent said her personal grieving is complete and politics is a way to move forward.
“I said why not give it a try?” she said. “It’s a life experience too.
”I thought to myself that I can do it. Yes I’m blind. Yes I’m 23. But these are things I can use in my favour.”
A Quebec solidaire supporter since becoming an adult, she became involved at the grassroots level last fall. Not long after, the party began gauging her interest in running.
Although she lives in Quebec solidaire’s east-end Montreal powerbase, she picked the western Montreal riding of Marguerite Bourgeoys where the party has never topped more than 1,508 votes in an election.
Alongside a team of volunteers, she’s also learning more about the multicultural electoral district that includes a large Sikh population. She first visited the riding while attending the local gurdwara with her husband, who is Sikh.
She says living with a disability allows her to put her empathy, openness and willingness to listen to others to the forefront – advantages on the campaign trail.
“For me it’s much more of a strength than a negative that I lost my vision,” she says.
Pitted against Liberal cabinet heavyweight Helene David among other candidates, an undaunted St-Laurent said door-knocking during the campaign’s first week went well as she pitched her priorities like accessibility and fighting poverty.
Four years removed from a life-changing experience, St-Laurent feels she’s ready to give back to society through politics.
“If you want to make change, do it yourself and go for it,” she said.