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Figueroa in 2012.
|Leader of the Communist Party of Canada|
|Preceded by||George Hewison|
|Succeeded by||Elizabeth Rowley|
July 29, 1952|
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
|Political party||Communist Party of Canada|
Miguel Figueroa (born July 29, 1952) was the leader of the Communist Party of Canada from 1992 until 2015. He is known for the landmark Figueroa case, which redefined the role of small parties and Canadian Parliamentary democracy, as well as his role re-establishing the Communist Party of Canada in the post-Soviet era.
Early political career
Figueroa joined the Communist Party in 1977 and held many positions within the Party. In 1978, he became the party’s Greater Vancouver organizer, working with people such as city councilors Harry Rankin and Bruce Yorke as well as Party activists across the region. He also helped organize demonstrations which brought scores of thousands onto the streets, marching for nuclear disarmament.
From 1986 to 1992 Figueroa served as regional corespondent for the Canadian Tribune and the Party’s Atlantic region leader. He was based in Halifax, but traveled across Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland on a regular basis. In 1991 Figueroa was laid off (a casualty of the inner-party struggle which had begun to brew), and he decided to go back to school, beginning a Master's program in International Development Studies at St. Mary's University, while working as a teaching assistant at neighbouring Dalhousie University. In 1992–93, Figueroa chaired a union organizing committee that signed up 800 part-time seasonal professors and teaching assistants at Dalhousie, ultimately leading to membership in the Canadian Union of Public Employees. He was also active in various mass movements like peace and disarmament, international solidarity, and trade union organizing.
Leadership of the Communist Party of Canada
The dissolution of the Soviet Union produced sharply different assessments within the CPC. Under the leadership of general secretary George Hewison (1988–92), the leadership of the CPC and a segment of its general membership proposed abandoning Marxism-Leninism as the basis of the Party's revolutionary perspective. They ultimately moved to liquidate the Party itself, seeking to replace it with a left, social democratic entity.
The protracted ideological, political, organizational and legal battle created much confusion and disorientation within the ranks of the Party, and paralysed both its independent and united front work for over two years. Ultimately, the Hewison-led majority in the party's Central Committee voted to abandon Marxism-Leninism. An orthodox minority, led by Elizabeth Rowley, Figueroa and former leader William Kashtan, resisted this effort. In August 1991, evidence was revealed of the plans of the Hewison leadership to liquidate the party and seize its assets. The Hewison-controlled Executive reacted by expelling 14 leading members of the opposition, suspending the Ontario Provincial Committee, and introducing 'loyalty oaths' which had to be signed by all members. As a result, Rowley and the other expelled members took the Communist Party to court. An out-of-court settlement resulted in the Hewison leadership relinquishing the name "Communist Party of Canada", while taking most of the old party's assets to the Cecil-Ross Society, a publishing and educational foundation previously associated with the party.
A convention was held in December 1992 in which delegates declared themselves to be the continuation of the Communist Party (thus the meeting was titled the 30th CPC Convention). Delegates rejected the changes instituted by Hewison and reaffirmed the CPC as a Marxist-Leninist organization. Since most of the old party's assets were now the property of the Hewison-led Cecil Ross Society, the CPC convention decided to launch a new newspaper, the People's Voice, to replace the Canadian Tribune and Pacific Tribune.
Elected leader in December 1992 at the 30th Party Convention, Figueroa was re-elected to that office until his resignation in January 2016, for health reasons. Over his 23 year term, Figueroa led the party through eight federal election campaigns, touring and speaking across the country. As part of a new collective leadership, he worked to help achieve what the Party considers the clarification of its revolutionary orientation as well as its ideological identity based on Marxism-Leninism. In particular, Figueroa participated in the elaboration of the Party’s new political program, Canada’s Future is Socialism!, a process which began in the mid-1990s and culminated in the adoption of the final version at the 33rd Central Convention in February 2001.
His leadership also saw the consolidation and rebuilding of the Communist Party across the country — helping to launch People’s Voice and, later, Clarté, as well as The Spark! , the CPC’s theoretical and discussion journal. The Party re-established several clubs and committees, including the Party’s Quebec component the Communist Party of Quebec, as well as the youth organization known as the Young Communist League. The Party continues to play a role in many labour, peace, environmental, aboriginal, women’s, student, immigrant and other people’s movements.
Figueroa chaired the international commission of the Party and represented the CPC around the world, including Greece, Portugal, India, China, Vietnam, South Africa, Cuba, Venezuela and the United States. He was regularly present at the International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties where, on behalf of the Party, he advocated for efforts to build greater cooperation, political cohesion, and unity of action among Communist and Workers’ parties to deal with the growing dangers of imperialism and urgent problems of peace, solidarity and protection of the global environment.
The 38th Central Convention of the CPC was held May 21-23, 2016 in Toronto. The Convention included a tribute to Miguel Figueroa for his lengthy service as party leader; it also elected Elizabeth Rowley as the new leader (and parliamentary leader). Figueroa was elected to the new 23-member Central Committee.
Figueroa v. Canada
In 1993, the fledgling CPC was still recovering from its crisis and split. The Party now had only a few hundred members, and had lost a number of assets, including the party's headquarters at 24 Cecil Street in Toronto. As a result, the CPC was not in a position to run fifty candidates in the 1993 federal election, the number required to maintain official party status because of recent changes to Canada's Elections Act. As a result, the newly relaunched CPC was deregistered by Elections Canada, and its remaining assets were seized by the government. A prolonged legal battle, Figueroa v. Canada ensued, resulting in a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2003 that overturned a provision in the Elections Act requiring fifty candidates for official party status (the number had been increased by an act of parliament in the intervening years). Earlier in the legal battle, the party had its deregistration overturned and its seized assets restored.
Figueroa currently lives in Toronto and has a school-aged daughter. In his spare time he enjoys camping, relaxing with friends and playing pool.
Canadian federal elections since 2000
Figueroa has run in five Canadian general elections and at least two provincial elections:
- British Columbia general election, 1979: Figueroa ran in the two-member riding of Vancouver Centre, and finished eighth in a field of eight candidates with 237 votes. Gary Lauk and Emery Barnes of the New Democratic Party of British Columbia won.
- Canadian federal election, 1984: Figueroa ran in the riding of Vancouver East, and finished last with 259 votes. Margaret Mitchell of the New Democratic Party won.
- Canadian federal election, 1988: Figueroa ran in the riding of Halifax, and finished 5th in a field of 7 candidates with 151 votes. Mary Clancy of the Liberal Party of Canada won.
- Canadian federal election, 1993: Figueroa ran as an independent in the riding of Parkdale—High Park, and finished 9th out of a field of 11 with 105 votes. Jesse Flis of the Liberals won.
- Ontario general election, 1995: Figueroa ran in the riding of Beaches—Woodbine, and finished 5th in a field of six candidates with 169 votes. Frances Lankin of the New Democratic Party of Ontario won.
- Canadian federal election, 1997: Figueroa ran as an independent in the riding of Davenport, and finished 7th in a field of 8 with 194 votes. Charles Caccia of the Liberals won.
- Canadian federal election, 2000: Figueroa ran in the riding of Toronto—Danforth, and finished 9th in a field of 10 with 129 votes. Dennis Mills of the Liberals won.
- Canadian federal election, 2004: Figueroa ran in the riding of East York-Beaches in Toronto, and finished 7th in a field of 8 with 62 votes. Maria Minna of the Liberals won.
|Canadian federal election, 2006|
|New Democratic||Gord Perks||12,681||32.61||-1.52|
|Canadian Action||Wendy Forrest||122||0.31||+0.02|
|Total valid votes||38,892||100.00|
|Total rejected ballots||240||0.61||-0.22|
|Elections Canada, Riding of Davenport, Electoral District 35015.|
|2004 federal election: Beaches—East York|
|New Democratic Party||Peter Tabuns||15,156||32.29||$55,897.43|
|Ind. (Global Party)||Edward Slota||80||0.17||$408.47|
|Total valid votes||46,933||100.00|
|Total rejected ballots||204|
|1993 federal election: Parkdale—High Park|
|Progressive Conservative||Don Baker||5,668||13.78|
|New Democratic Party||David Miller||3,855||9.37|
|National||Stephen A. Biega||1,320||3.21|
|Natural Law||Wanda Beaver||371||0.90|
|Ind. (Communist)||Miguel Figueroa||105||0.26|
|Abolitionist||Thomas Earl Pennington||60||0.15|
|Total valid votes||41,131||100.00|
|Rejected, unmarked and declined ballots||416|
- "Communist Party elects first woman leader". Communist Party of Canada. Communist Party of Canada. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- How the Communist Party changed Canadian elections forever, This Magazine - includes a profile of Figueroa.
- A Short Biography of Miguel Figueroa at the Communist Party of Canada website