NDP MLA Sue Hammell's retirement leaves a hole for those who value B.C.'s diversity

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      Yesterday, Surrey–Green Timbers NDP MLA Sue Hammell announced that she won't be a candidate in the 2017 provincial election.

      Hammell wasn't the flashiest member of the legislative chamber. Nor did she generate the most amount of media coverage.

      But over the years, residents of her diverse constituency could be assured that Hammell would consistently speak up for their interests even if others weren't so concerned about issues of importance to them.

      She raised the alarm in the legislature about terrorist attacks in Pakistan.

      She spoke out about the horrors inflicted by a cyclone in Fiji.

      Hammell was also very knowledgeable about political strife in Nepal, and even held a fundraiser to help Dalits (so-called untouchables) after a devastating earthquake in that country.

      In addition, she's educated her colleagues in the legislature about measures being taken to advance political representation for women in Morocco.

      "The path to equality is a long one, and the women of Morocco are on that path and are very determined," Hammell said on July 26. "This gives me pause to celebrate the number of women in our legislature, at 38 percent, and the number, at 43 percent, in our caucus and the genuine political equality that we have reached in this house."

      In February, she told the legislature that her constituency was once a forest stretching over 5,000 acres. And she noted that the environmental ethic has remained in efforts of various conservation groups, including the Green Timbers Heritage Society, to retain some of the forest canopy.

      "Eighty percent of the households in Surrey–Green Timbers are single- or multifamily dwellings, with almost 40 percent of the residents in those homes falling in the 20- to 44-year-old range," Hammell said. "My community is filled with motivated and inspired people looking to give their children and families a higher standard of living."

      She added that there are 50 languages spoken in Surrey–Green Timbers. And for her, one of the highlights was the range of cuisine that can be found in the constituency.

      "With such a worldly population, we have an opportunity to experience a diverse array of religions and customs," she noted. "Whether it be a Sikh gurdwara, a Hindu mandir, a Muslim mosque or one of the many Christian churches, you can practise whatever faith you believe in. With deep ties to the community, our many religious groups work tirelessly to ease the transition for new arrivals into the region. Regularly I attend beautiful celebrations in different temples, churches and mosques, and I’m taken aback by the passionate and positive messages being spread."

      It's not a message often heard nowadays in the mainstream media.

      Hammell was elected five times between 1991 and 2013 and served most recently as the B.C. NDP critic for mental health and addictions. During the last NDP government, she held three cabinet posts and was elected as caucus chair.

      But her greatest legacy will probably be her efforts to bring people of different racial and cultural backgrounds together and make all of them feel legitimately Canadian. This was in spite of the discrimination that they sometimes might have endured.