Vision Vancouver selects 21-year-old Diego Cardona as its candidate for council by-election

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      The mayor’s Vision Vancouver party has named its youngest candidate in its history to run in the October 14 council by-election.

      Diego Cardona is just 21 years old but already has a long life story. He moved to Vancouver in 2005 with his mother and younger sister. They arrived as refugees from Colombia after guerrilla forces kidnapped and murdered Cardona’s father.

      Vision Vancouver did not make Cardona available before the Straight went to print. But in an August 2016 interview with the Straight, he recounted how his first few years adjusting to a new life in Canada were tough. He said he focused on school and became a young advocate for refugees. Then, in 2012, when Cardona was 16, he lost his mother to leukemia. He and his sister found themselves alone and were placed in foster care.

      Despite successive tragedies, Cardona graduated high school with top marks and was accepted to UBC. He was studying politics and economics there until 2016, when he was diagnosed with cancer and took a break from school to undergo treatment. With the disease now in remission, Cardona works as a program coordinator for Kiwassa Neighbourhood House in Vancouver's East Side. He also volunteers with a group he cofounded called Fresh Voices, which meets with new immigrants and coordinates with the provincial government to help meet their needs.

      Cardona doesn’t appear to have a lot of experience in local politics. But Fresh Voices has played the role of an advocate at the federal level. In 2015, it contributed to the Liberal government’s decision to eliminate a requirement for Syrian refugees to repay the government for transportation costs to Canada. At the provincial level, Cardona previously held the title of participation coordinator at the Federation of B.C. Youth in Care Networks, which advocates for children and young adults who are in the care of the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development.

      Vision named Cardona its council candidate via an internal party appointment.

      The opposition Non-Partisan Association (NPA) is scheduled to hold a nomination meeting on September 6. Three members are competing for the council spot. Hector Bremner works in public affairs and previously served as an executive assistant to the former deputy premier. Glen Chernen is a financial analyst who has run for office unsuccessfully with the Cedar Party. And Penny Noble is a former school board trustee who has also worked as a teacher.

      Other candidates running in the by-election include Jean Swanson, Judy Graves, Pete Fry, and Mary Jean Dunsdon.