Honourable Michael Coteau
Ontario’s First African Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
"Working For One, Working For All"
By Dwayne Riley-Grant
Honourable Michael Coteau was named Minister of Citizenship and Immigration on February 11, 2013, by Premier Kathleen Wynne. Coteau is the first African Canadian to become Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. He was named by Wynne, the first woman to become Premier of Ontario, both making history in Canada’s most populous province and economic hub.
Minister Coteau was elected Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) in the Don Valley East riding in 2011. Previously, he served as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sports. He has also served as Trustee for Toronto District School Board (TDSB) in 2003, 2006 and 2010.
Born in the UK, Coteau and his family migrated to Canada. He began kindergarten in Toronto and grew up in Flemingdon Park, which was a planned multicultural “Apartment City” for new immigrants in 1961. “In our apartment hallway, every door led to a family from a different country,” says Honourable Coteau.
“It was like living in the United Nations,” he jovially says.
Young Coteau attended Don Mills Middle School followed by Victoria Park Collegiate Institute. In 1997, he graduated from Carleton University, where he obtained a degree in Political Science and Canadian History. He then worked as an assistant to the federal Minister of Industry on initiatives such as Connecting Canadians and Computers for Schools. He also worked as an ESL teacher for two years.
Coteau was also a community organizer in Malvern for United Way Scarborough, where he organized the Malvern Youth Cabinet, the Law and Order Youth Group and Malvern’s Photo Group. The minister also served as Chair of the Redemption Reintegration Services, which was funded by the Youth Challenge Fund. The purpose is to support the youth involved with the criminal justice system.
Minister Coteau served as Vice Chair of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and Board Member for Toronto Foundation for Student Success and Toronto Land Corporation. As a school trustee, Coteau advocated for student nutrition, better use of community space and educational technology.
Coteau implemented the Community Use of Schools motion to cut user fees and make schools more accessible to groups that offer programs for children. He helped to introduce nutritional changes throughout schools that increased awareness of hunger and advance healthy food programs.
Most recently, Coteau was CEO & Executive Director of Alpha Plus, a national literacy organization. He is proud of his upbringing in the province that accepted him with open arms. “I’m here because of them,” says Michael, referring to his parents. “But I’m also here because Ontario gave them a chance,” he says, grateful to the province where he is now a leader at the legislative and ministerial levels.
Minister Coteau is smart, humble, dedicated and hard working. It takes a smart Premier like Kathleen Wynne to recognize and elevate such leadership talent. He is often heard praising Canada’s diversity. He says, “Diversity is such a beautiful thing. It makes us stronger, economically and culturally.”