A OneCity Vancouver councillor has a lengthy motion on notice concerning historical discrimination against people of South Asian ancestry in the city.
Christine Boyle's preamble mentions the expulsion of the Komagata Maru from Vancouver's harbour in 1914.
She also points out the disenfranchisement of people of South Asian ancestry for several decades in the 20th century, and efforts to revitalize the Punjabi Market at East 49th Avenue and Main Street.
Then Boyle ends with a six-part resolution asking council to direct staff to write a report providing a summary of laws, regulations, and policies of previous city councils that discriminated against this community from the 1890s to the present.
It's on the agenda of the July 23 council meeting and if it's approved, it will lay the foundation for a formal apology by the City of Vancouver for historical wrongs.
This will also no doubt firm up Boyle's support in the South Asian community in the next election.
But what's missing from this motion is any mention of the horrific discrimination experienced by municipal candidates with South Asian surnames in the 1990s and 2000s.
Without highlighting this in the preamble, there's a chance that a staff report will paper over this appalling situation, which is a result of the Vancouver Charter. That's the provincial legislation laying out how councillors are elected.
The Straight has covered this topic on many occasions.
The propensity of a certain percentage of voters to discriminate against candidates with South Asian surnames in recent times is one reason why people of South Asian ancestry in Vancouver are among the strongest supporters of a ward system.
That's because at-large voting systems discriminate against concentrated minority communities, according to several U.S. court rulings, including Rogers v. Lodge.
In this 1982 case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an at-large election system in a large rural county was offside because of its effect on African Americans.
This issue has been studied extensively by Mayor Kennedy Stewart when he was a graduate student and a professor.
Stewart made noises before the election about launching a court challenge if the province didn't get rid of the at-large system, under which candidates are elected on a citywide basis.
Boyle's OneCity party called for a Citizens' Assembly to make recommendations on electoral reform, followed by a referendum. And OneCity endorsed Stewart.
But since being elected last year, Stewart hasn't gone out of his way to try to change the electoral system in Vancouver.
Meanwhile, electoral-reform advocate Stuart Parker believes there's no need for provincial legislation or a referendum to change the system.
He has argued in the past that council could pass a motion for one of three systems—cumulative vote (CV), limited vote (LV), and single non-transferable vote (SNTV)—and this would survive a legal challenge.
For those unaware of the extent of the racism in the at-large electoral system in Vancouver's very recent history, I prepared a review below.
It shows how every candidate of South Asian ancestry with a major party fared since 1990.
1990: The only incumbent NPA school trustee, Harkirkpal Sara, was defeated.
1993: The NPA won nine of 10 council seats. Its only candidate who lost was the only Indo-Canadian candidate, Daljit Sidhu. He was nearly 10,000 votes behind the next-lowest NPA candidate, Craig Hemer, who was elected.
1993: The NPA's only park board candidate, Kewal Pabla, came nearly 4,000 votes behind the next-lowest NPA park board candidate.
1993: The NPA's only Indo-Canadian school board candidate, Iqbal Sara, trailed all other NPA trustee candidates and lost the election, even though his party won in a landslide.
1996: The only three COPE candidates with South Asian surnames came last on their party slates for council, school board, and park board. The NPA did not run a candidate of South Asian ancestry.
1999: The NPA won eight of 10 council seats, but its lowest-ranking candidate and only one of South Asian descent, Baldev Dhugga, came 10th. He trailed the next-lowest NPA candidate by more than 3,000 votes.
1999: The NPA's only trustee candidate of South Asian ancestry, Vijay Singhera, was nearly 4,000 votes behind her closest NPA competitor.
1999: COPE's only park board candidate of South Asian ancestry, Munna Prasad, ranked last on the party's slate for commissioner.
2002: The NPA and COPE, did not run candidates of South Asian ancestry for council, park board, or school board.
2005: Nobody of South Asian ancestry ran for council or park board with the NPA, COPE, or Vision Vancouver. The only person with a South Asian surname who ran for school board, Rucku Bhandal of the NPA, came second to last on the party's slate.
2008: Every Vision Vancouver candidate for council was elected except the one with the South Asian surname, Kashmir Dhaliwal. He was nearly 5,000 votes behind the next-lowest Vision Vancouver candidate, Geoff Meggs.
2008: Raj Hundal of Vision Vancouver became the first person of South Asian ancestry elected to the park board, but he was still nearly 8,000 votes behind the next-lowest ranking Vision park candidate, Sarah Blyth.
2008: COPE's only school board candidate of South Asian ancestry, Alvin Singh, came more than 2,000 votes behind the next-lowest COPE trustee candidate, Bill Bargeman. Ten years later, Singh became Mayor Stewart's director of communications.
2008: The NPA's only council candidate of South Asian ancestry, Daljit Sidhu, was 4,516 votes behind the next-lowest NPA council candidate, Sean Bickerton.
2008: The NPA's only park board candidate of South Asian ancestry, Naresh Shukla, was nearly 6,000 votes behind the next-lowest-ranking NPA park candidate.
2008: The NPA's only school-board candidate of South Asian ancestry, Dr. Lakhbir Singh, was more than 1,300 votes behind the NPA trustee candidate with the second-lowest number of votes, Margit Nance.
2011: Vision Vancouver's Niki Sharma registered a breakthrough by becoming the first woman of South Asian ancestry to be elected to the park board. The only other candidate of South Asian ancestry fielded by a major party, Sandy Sharma of the NPA, came last on her party's slate for school board.
2014: Niki Sharma was one of only two Vision Vancouver candidates—and the only one of South Asian ancestry—who was defeated in a run for city council. She came last on her slate.
2014: The NPA's only park board candidate of South Asian ancestry, Jay Jagpal, was second last on his slate. He was nearly 8,000 votes behind the next-lowest on his slate, Erin Shum, who was elected.
2014: Vision Vancouver's only park board candidate of South Asian ancestry, Naveen Girn, came fourth on a slate of six. He wasn't elected.
2014: COPE's lowest-ranking park board candidate, Imtiaz Popat, had a South Asian surname.
2014: The NPA's Sandy Sharma again came last on her party's slate for school board. She was more than 4,000 votes behind the next-lowest on her slate, Christopher Richardson, who was elected.
2018: The NPA's only council candidate of South Asian ancestry, David Grewal, narrowly lost, coming 11th in the race for 10 other spots. Five other NPA candidates were elected and two others collected fewer votes than him. Had Grewal been elected, he would have been the first Punjabi-speaking councillor in Vancouver history.
2018: OneCity's Jennifer Reddy, whose parents are from Fiji, became the first woman of South Asian ancestry to be elected to the Vancouver school board. Reddy is a common name in South India, though that isn't well known in Vancouver.
2018: Pall Beesla received the fewest votes of all NPA candidates for park board.
2018: Shamin Shivji received the most votes among the two Vision Vancouver park board candidates but didn't come close to being elected.
Yes Vancouver cannot be considered a major party, given its poor performance in its first campaign in 2018. It had two candidates of South Asian ancestry on its five-member council slate.
Brinder Bains received the most votes among them and Jaspreet Virdi received the fourth-highest number. They didn't come close to being elected.
Another party that ran candidates for the first time last year, ProVancouver, had two council candidates of South Asian ancestry.
Raza Mirza collected the most votes on his party's four-member council slate; Rohana Rezel received the fewest. They didn't come close to being elected.
And Pratpal Kaur Gill came second out of five Vancouver First candidates for school board, but also didn't come close to being elected.
Politicians of South Asian ancestry have sometimes been among the most progressive elected officials within federal and provincial parties.
People who trace their roots back to South Asia have also been leaders in antiracism campaigns in Metro Vancouver for many years.
Charan Gill, Aziz Khaki, Harsha Walia, Zool Suleman, Shushma Datt, Imtiaz Popat, Gurpreet Singh, and Reddy are just eight of many more examples.
Reddy, for instance, was the politician most responsible for removing a plaque celebrating colonial tycoon Cecil Rhodes from a Vancouver school.
So it's arguable that the long-term marginalization of people of South Asian ancestry from Vancouver civic politics has taken some of the wind out of the city's antiracism movement.
Earlier this year after winning an antiracism award from Spice Radio, former park commissioner Niki Sharma pledged to continue to work with her allies to create a community that's founded in equity.
"And to those who uphold systems that support the supremacy of the few over the many, we will tear them down and remake them to lift us all," Niki Sharma declared. "And I know in my heart that we can't do this by looking away, by staying silent, and by just saying that we believe in equity without wanting to do the hard work of achieving it."