Niki Sharma: To those people of colour who ran and lost in the civic elections, I know how you feel

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      Congratulations to all those who were elected in Vancouver on Saturday.

      Running for office is a brave endeavour. Your name, your values, and your identity are on the line for the judgement of Vancouver voters. It’s hard work energizing your community, reaching out to as many people as you can, and sharing your personal values and story. I know you did it because you believe in making an impact and are dedicated to this city.

      Unfortunately, our election results do not reflect the diversity of the candidates who ran, much less our city. This has been true for every single election in Vancouver—even worse now when 51 percent of our population identify as coming from a racialized community.

      To those people of colour who ran and lost, I understand how you feel. In your mind, you will go over all of the doors left unknocked and all factors in and out of your control that led to your loss. When you analyze all of the factors, there will be one that is shared by too many of those with same election result. In there lies an injustice that your personal effort could not have changed.

      It’s the same way Kashmir Dhaliwal, a prominent leader, must have felt in 2008, when he gracefully stood on a victory stage celebrating the election of every single member of his party except him—and it has not changed since then.

      Just after I lost in 2014, I was in a taxi and the driver recognized me. He was South Asian and told me not to give up—that one day it will change and again one of us will be elected in Vancouver. I heard the upset in his voice and understood that this pain is shared by entire communities that are left out of city hall.

      It’s time for change Vancouver.

      The weight of these barriers is not ours nor our communities to bear alone. It should rest on the shoulders of every Vancouver citizen. This is about who we are as a city and who we want to be. If we believe in equal opportunity—that every person should have a fair shot at those seats on council. And, that our democracy should create a platform for people to be judged by their values, ideas, and commitment and not by the colour of their skin. If we believe all this, then we need to take concrete action.

      Let’s work together to find answers and real solutions. In these competitive election races, why do people of colour slide down in the polls? What barriers lay in the silence of an anonymous ballot?

      I ask our newly elected mayor and council to establish a citywide plan for equity and inclusion with an intersectional lens. We need to ensure all communities in city hall are represented and included in decision-making. And we need to have an honest conversation about racism.

      As the election results settle in and we move on, I urge you not turn away from this issue. If we do, nothing will change. Too many people in Vancouver are weary with little hope for change.

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      Niki Sharma is a former Vancouver park commissioner.

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