Columns: Should Fraser Valley Elect A South Asian?

By January 23, 2013Hot Topic, Ken Herar

By Ken Herar. It was recently brought to my attention that a provincial political party does not want any more South Asian candidates representing them in the May election.

I don’t know how true this is, but it’s nevertheless shocking to say
the least. This brings us to a bigger question here at home: Is it
time the voters of the Fraser Valley considered electing a South Asian
to Victoria or Ottawa?

It would be historical to say the least, and it would bring diverse
voices from various communities that are rapidly growing in the area.

Unfortunately, the Fraser Valley region has always struggled to get
elected ethnic representation to public office.

One example of this would be Abbotsford Coun. Moe Gill, who ran
unsuccessfully for a civic seat for decades, finally getting elected
in the mid 1990s.

Until a city like Abbotsford, one of most diverse communities in
Canada, elects someone from the South Asian community (the largest
visible minority group in the area) to a senior level of government,
the cultural divide will continue to exist in some shape or form.

Holding key leadership positions certainly changes the perception of
how people view certain communities.

It would be historical to see one of the three South Asians vying for
a political seat this year here in the central Fraser Valley actually
capture a nod in the upcoming provincial election. Can Lakhvinder
Jhaj, Sukhi Dhami or Preet Rai accomplish this enormous task?

Anything is possible when it comes to B.C. politics, and I believe
they realize the task before them. In a nutshell, too many South Asian
candidates have ran provincially and federally in the past, but were
never in a position to win in the first place and this must also

NGrewallI am not suggesting we strictly vote on someone’s ethnicity, but if
there is an opportunity to bring new voices and ethnic backgrounds
into the political spectrum, the entire community benefits.

For this become a reality, there has to be stronger unity within the
South Asian community.

Rai said: “I am excited about my chances in the upcoming elections and
will have to work very hard. I am a true believer in diversity and
want to represent the entire community, and I want to listen to all
the voices in the community.

“If you find me in campaigning on the streets or in the community door
knocking, feel free to speak with me about any concerns”.

The closest the Valley has come to getting a South Asian candidate
elected to Victoria was in 1956 when former Mission mayor Naranjan
Grewall almost defeated former Socred labour minister Lyle Wicks for
the Dewdney seat.

Some even say he won that election and lost it due to vote tampering.
Six years earlier, he was first elected to Mission council, making him
the first visible minority and Indo-Canadian elected to public office
in this country.

He was later nominated as a provincial candidate for the Cooperative
Commonwealth Federation, also making him the first visible minority to
run as a candidate in Canada.

All told, it’s a wonderful part of Canadian history we can all be proud of.

Ken HerarKen Herar is a columnist and community activist in the cause of cultural diversity.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • The Editor says:

    Meghann Coughlan Says:

    We should vote for whoever possesses the greatest honour, integrity and desire to do right by those they represent.

    I don’t feel that ethnicity should play a role in it either way.

    If a certain party doesn’t want any more South Asian candidates then that party doesn’t deserve, and will not receive, my vote.

    From Facebook:

  • Marc Misner says:

    Mr. Herar,

    Thank you for the informative article. It is enjoyable and enlightening. I was unaware of the accomplishments of Mayor Grewall and I am happy to learn of them.

    I would, however make the following comment. In your article you write “… making him the first visible minority … elected to public office in this country…”

    Not in any way to diminish Mayor Grewall’s considerable accomplishments, I would invite you to read about Mifflin Westar Gibbs elected to Victoria City Council in 1866 (A good synopsis can be found at

    Councillor Gibbs was – to my knowledge – the first visible minority in Canada (an possibly the commonwealth) to be elected to public office.


    Marc Misner

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