It's been an astonishing rise for Melanie Mark.
Raised in the Downtown Eastside by a mother who struggled with addiction (now 10 years sober) and a father who died of an overdose, the former president of the Urban Native Youth Association has been elected as the new NDP MLA for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant.
With nearly all the ballots counted, Mark has more than 60 percent of the vote in the NDP stronghold of Vancouver—Mount Pleasant, far ahead of the Greens' Pete Fry and the B.C. Liberals' Gavin Dew.
When she's sworn into office, the Nisga'a, Gitxsan, Cree, and Ojibway single mother will become the first fully indigenous woman elected to the B.C. legislature. (NDP finance critic Carole James is of Métis ancestry.)
Mark succeeds Jenny Kwan, who resigned the seat in advance of her successful run for Parliament as the NDP candidate in Vancouver East.
The first aboriginal man ever elected to a legislature in Canada was Frank Calder. He was elected in the B.C. constituency of Atlin in 1949 and remained in office until 1979.
The second aboriginal man elected was Larry Guno, a lawyer and playwright who represented Atlin from 1986 to 1991.
Mark focused her campaign on achieving a fairer deal for low-income people, highlighting the lack of affordable housing, the precarious job market, and rising tuition, medical-services, and B.C. Hydro fees.
"I was raised in social housing in East Van," she wrote in a commentary on this website before the election. "I moved more than 30 times in my life."
Mark spent eight years working in the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth, eventually being promoted to associate deputy representative to Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.
The NDP also captured a second by-election today. In Coquitlam–Burke Mountain, Jodie Wickens defeated B.C. Liberal Joan Isaacs, Green candidate Joe Keithley, and Libertarian Paul Geddes.