Yolande James

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Yolande James
MNA for Nelligan
In office
September 20, 2004 – 2014
Preceded by Russell Williams
Succeeded by Martin Coiteux
Personal details
Born (1977-11-21) November 21, 1977 (age 37)
Montreal, Quebec
Political party Quebec Liberal Party
Cabinet Minister 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 and the youngest, as well as 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' 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 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.

She was first elected to the National Assembly of Quebec for the riding of Nelligan in a by-election held on September 20, 2004. She was re-elected in the 2007 Quebec general election.

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.[3] After Tony Tomassi's sudden resignation in 2010, she was also given the Family portfolio which she kept during a cabinet shuffle in 2010 while losing her culture and immigration duties to Kathleen Weil.

Political Issues[edit]

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.[4]

James publicly entered the controversy over reasonable accommodation by stating that she stood by her decree to deny 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, if you want to integrate into Quebec society, here are our values. We want to see your face.” James' department decreed that Naema Ahmed leave CEGEP St. Laurent when Ahmed declined to remove her niqab during lessons.

Electoral Record[edit]

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. ^ "Woman fill half of cabinet in Quebec". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2007-04-19. Yolande James becomes Quebec's first black minister at Immigration and Cultural Communities. 
  2. ^ Minister breaks age, colour and language barriers
  3. ^ "Biography". Dictionnaire des parlementaires du Québec de 1792 à nos jours (in French). National Assembly of Quebec. 
  4. ^ Let Quebec control its immigration, Marois says

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Lise Theriault
Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities
Succeeded by
Kathleen Weil
Preceded by
Tony Tomassi
Minister of Family
Succeeded by