A former school-board candidate, Dr. Lakhbir Singh, says he will ask the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal to rule on whether Vancouver’s at-large voting system is racist and illegal. In a December 3 phone interview with the Straight, Singh said he has been in e-mail and telephone contact with the tribunal, which administers the B.C. Human Rights Code.
In the November Vancouver civic election, Singh was one of six major-party candidates of South Asian descent who came last on their respective slates. After the Straight pointed out that Indo-Canadian candidates almost always come last on their slates in Vancouver, Singh decided to raise this matter with the tribunal.
Singh said that a staffer at the tribunal office told him over the phone that he could have a potential human-rights case, and passed along an application form. “I want to file a good complaint,” Singh said. “I don’t want to lose.”
Proponents of a ward system—in which politicians are elected in neighbourhood constituencies—say it is more democratic because it levels the playing field for candidates without high name recognition or for those who don’t have enough money to bankroll a citywide campaign. Singh said that results in recent Vancouver elections demonstrate that people with South Asian names cannot get elected on a citywide basis because there are too many citizens who won’t vote for them. He said this amounts to discrimination.
“If they change it to a ward system, I will run,” Singh said. “In at-large, I’m 100-percent sure there is absolutely no hope of winning.”