Ben Carr wants everyone to know he loved, respected and admired his father—former Liberal member of Parliament Jim Carr—but he is running for the nomination for his dad’s old seat as his own person.
“This campaign is about me, what I can contribute and my track record,” he said of his decision to seek the Liberal party’s nomination in Winnipeg South Centre, the seat held by his father from 2015 until his death in December 2022.
“I am incredibly proud of my dad, and I have benefitted from the values he raised me with,” said the younger Carr. “I want to emulate my father, but I want people to vote for me, not because I am his son.”
Carr, 36, is a former high school teacher and principal who currently is vice-president, stakeholder and government relations, for Indigenous Strategy Alliance, an organization that seeks to support and empower Indigenous people in Canada.
Although he grew up as “a white Jew in River Heights,” Carr was interested in Indigenous issues from a young age.
“I wanted to learn more about Indigenous history in Canada, not something my demographic was typically exposed to at that age,” he said.
Canada’s Indigenous and Jewish communities have a lot in common, Carr said.
“We both have a history of mistreatment, although that mistreatment took different forms,” he said, noting Indigenous people suffered much more than Jews in Canada through things like residential schools.
It has caused him to have a “deeper kinship” with his Indigenous friends, because of their shared background of mistreatment, he noted.
Although Carr has not experienced antisemitism first-hand, beyond hearing jokes and stereotypes, he knows it is real and is concerned about it. He remembers hearing stories about when his father was beaten up for being Jewish.
Carr, who has a partner and “a couple of dogs and cats,” grew up going to Temple Shalom and Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Winnipeg. He is not a frequent attender at synagogue now, except for special events and some High Holiday services.
His desire to serve as an MP grows partly out of his Jewish upbringing—the idea of being a positive force in the world.
“I have a commitment to the community where I grew up, played and worked,” he said. Running for the Liberal nomination for Winnipeg South Centre “is another way I can make that contribution.”
When it comes to Israel, Carr said he understands the important place it holds for Jews in Canada. But he also recognizes there are a range of views about it in the Jewish community.
“I very much believe (Israel) has a right to exist and to defend itself,” he said, adding the country “plays a critical role as the only democracy in the region. It is important for Canada to retain a strong relationship with Israel.”
If nominated and then elected to Parliament, Carr intends to be “a keen participant” in discussions about Israel in the Jewish community. But he also wants to focus on other issues of concern to the Jewish community in Winnipeg, such as antisemitism and various social issues.
As for his father’s legacy, people still come up to him months after his death to say how much the elder Carr meant to them. “So many people have a story about him,” he said. “I hear again and again what a warm, intelligent and supportive person he was.”
Carr’s goal is to be like his dad when it comes to listening, hearing different perspectives, thinking into the longer term and remembering that any power and influence he might have “comes from the people.”
No date has been set for the nomination vote, or for the byelection to fill the seat.