A (former) Montrealer in the White House: Kamala Harris becomes vice president
MONTREAL -- For the first time in history, a Westmount High alum became vice president on Wednesday.
The ceremony was streamed into her former classrooms, as Westmount High students watch one of their own take office shortly after 12 p.m., Montreal time.
“The energy has been palpable the past few weeks in the school,” said Westmount High Grade 10 student Aaron Itovitch.
“We got an amazing sense of pride watching one of our own Knights be sworn in. Over the past few weeks we put up flyers, we put up posters, doing all we can to take in all of this.”
Some students, including Grade 11 student A'Dejah Edouarzin-Merriman, took part in the viewing party by Zoom from home.
“A lot of the students are very proud to hear that one of our own graduates from Westmount high School has become the Vice President,” she said.
“A lot of women, girls, are really excited and looking up to her, honoured to have the same experiences she has, like graduating and walking across the same stage, hopefully, that she did. “
Teacher Karen Allen has been incorporating conversations about the inauguration, and the historical significance of Harris’s appointment, into her classes. Leading up to the ceremony, she said staff and students have been emotional and excited.
“We have a lot of incredible graduates that come through this place,” she said.
“But this moment, watching the inauguration with our kids and knowing where were you when the first woman was sworn in to the White House -- we know we were right here, in the same place where she got her foundation.”
Grade 10 student Ava Oxilia describes that moment as one that gave students a new perspective.
“When you stay in the same high school for five years, it can make our world seem small,” she said. “To know she was in a very similar place to a lot of students here, and then she reached once of the highest positions in U.S. government, it’s incredible to believe any one of us could attain such a high position.“
Harris was a student in the class of '81 after attending FACE school in Montreal's downtown for one year.
"I think it’s a very encouraging moment for humanity," said Trevor Williams, a former classmate of Harris.
"A woman of power, empowering women of colour... she's changing the times."
EMSB Chair Joe Ortona said the board will be formally inviting Vice President Harris to visit the students.
Following the November election, Quebec politicians were quick to express their excitement when it was revealed the U.S. would be co-governed by a former Montrealer.
“The wait was worth it,” tweeted Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante.
“[Kamala Harris], you made history today by breaking another glass ceiling.”
“We hope to see you soon,” wrote Premier Francois Legault, tagging the vice-president elect. “You will always be welcome in Quebec.”
Harris makes history as the first Black, South-Asian and female vice president. Following her victory in November, Harris wrote “while I may be the first, I won’t be the last.”
Experts say a Biden-Harris leadership could have a significant impact on Canadians, not just Quebecers.
McGill political science professor Daniel Beland says Canadians may be polarized by Biden’s first days in office.
“We cannot underestimate how significant the transition from the Trump to the Biden administration is for Canada,” said Beland.
“The Biden administration is likely to take rapid policy actions on key economic, public health, and environmental issues that are likely to have a direct impact on Canada.”
For example, Biden has vowed to axe the controversial Keystone XL pipeline during his first day in office – spurring prairie premiers to speak out against the president elect.
LISTEN ON CJAD 800 RADIO: What is it like for a fellow politician of South Asian heritage seeing Kamala Harris take office today? Sangeeta Doshi, councilwoman in Cherry Hill Township, New Jersey, who has met Harris, shares: