I was shocked and wasn’t even sure what it meant. After seeking advice, I discovered it was because I had asked to put my name in both English and Farsi—my first language—on the ballot. My fellow Vision Vancouver candidate, Vancouver School trustee Allan Wong, received the same email.
This notification struck a chord with me, as a relatively new Canadian who has been in Canada for seven years. We live in a city where almost half of our population was not born here, and a majority of people speak a language other than English as their first language.
I am a proud Canadian of Iranian origin. I was born and raised in Iran, and it’s still home to me—it’s where my family lives, and I’m a proud member of the Iranian Canadian community in Metro Vancouver.
For many of us, our identities are tied to our background, heritage and culture. We are proud of that and want to use it to build a city which is more inclusive, a city which works for us, a city where everyone feels they belong and can thrive.
For me, valuing and respecting inclusion and belonging is not just a slogan—the need for acceptance, inclusion and belonging is a requirement to feel safe living here. It is what I fight for every day and what I would continue to fight for, if elected.
As a woman of colour, a progressive immigrant and someone who has lived in this city as a minority, I know I am not alone in this experience. I also know that immigrants—ourselves—will play a critical role in making this city one that is welcoming and inclusive.
The statistics show that Vancouver has one of the most multicultural communities in the world, and I believe a sense of belonging and safety needs to be reflected in all parts of government, especially at the city level.
This means opening up our city to housing of all kinds—including nonprofit, cooperative and public housing, in neighbourhoods throughout the city—so people who move here have an affordable place to live. It means addressing mental health services and supports so people who live here are healthy. And, it means supporting diverse neighbourhood schools, arts and culture and thriving public spaces. Our vision is for a city in which immigrants feel they belong, and for a city that commits to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. A city that works and a city where everyone can thrive.
These days, many of us in Vancouver struggle. There are many who feel isolated, struggle with a city that is difficult to afford to live in or feel we do not belong here. That needs to change.
We are a city of immigrants, and we should act as one.
As you consider your vote in this municipal election, I hope you will think about the kind of city you want Vancouver to be and broaden your idea of who could represent you. Having that opportunity would be my greatest honour.
This Op-ed was published in the Georgia Straight on September 23, 2022.