I am hoping to be the first South Asian woman to win a seat on Vancouver city council



Photo by Saman Shariati

IN Canada, people of South Asian ancestry only gained the right to vote at all levels of government in 1948.  The first South Asian families to move to Vancouver had to organize and engage in local politics to survive. For example, community historians in our city have documented the story of Harnam Kaur who played an important role in protesting the exclusion of women of colour from living and settling in Vancouver during the early 1900s.  Now in 2018, I am hoping to be the first South Asian woman to win a seat on Vancouver city council.

Today, voting in elections has never been more important. We all need access to affordable housing, nutritious food, and clean water. Elders and children need care in greater numbers.  Young people need jobs that will contribute positively to the future.  Excitingly, Vancouver is having a municipal election on October 20.

Eligible voters across the whole city will elect candidates for 27 municipal positions. To vote a person must be 18 years or older and a Canadian citizen, and must have lived in Vancouver for 30 days and in BC for six months.  Vancouver has an ‘at-large’ system and no matter what neighbourhood you live in, everyone will choose out of the same pool of 50+ candidates and elect 10 city councillors, one mayor, seven parks board commissioners, and nine school board trustees.  The list of names will be very long, and for the first time ever, not in alphabetical order.  For reference, writers at the Vancouver Sun have created an online list of who is running for council in English.  Look out for my name, Taqdir (Taq) Kaur Bhandal and plan to vote for me as one of your 10 choices for council.

You can select 1-10 council candidates to vote for. If you choose more than 10, your vote will not be counted. City council is responsible for most aspects of daily life.  If elected, I would work with a team of 10 other diverse councillors and mayor to facilitate and manage construction permits, roads, police, fire fighting, transportation parking, libraries, waste collection, festivals, and more.

Almost 40,000+ people of South Asian ancestry live in the City of Vancouver. However, V. Setty Pendakur, born in Karnataka, was the last person of South Asian decent to be elected to city council more than 40 years ago in 1972.  While there are and have been no shortage of candidates, some think that the at-large voting system in Vancouver makes it difficult for diverse candidates to win.

I am a Sikh-Punjabi woman, PhD student at UBC, community organizer, and public educator running as an independent candidate for city council.  Running as an independent means that I am not affiliated with any of the political parties.  I am using my own educational background, research skills, and love for my city to bring a social and environmental justice approach.

For the last 10 years I have been working as a health researcher, university and community teacher, and have volunteered for non-profit organizations in Vancouver, Toronto, and Halifax.  Currently I am working on my dissertation and facilitate a program about menstrual health at the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective.  I also work part-time at the Soap Dispensary on Main Street. I was born and raised in Metro Vancouver and look forward to applying my experiences to municipal politics.

If elected, I plan to bring the following agenda items to the city council table (taqforcouncil.ca):

  1. Drastically increase supply and access to rental housing.
  2. Grow transportation that works together to include pedestrians, bikes, transit, and cars.
  3. Promote social equity and safety that reflects the ethno-cultural diversity of Vancouver.
  4. Take better care of the health of our local natural environment and earth.
  5. Work with Vancouver Public Library, School Board, and Parks Board to increase the number of childcare spaces at a subsidy for lower income families.

I am a strong believer that city council and other positions of power in Vancouver must be representative of the population.  Moreover, I think that all councillors, regardless of their party affiliation, should work as a team to tackle the most pressing issues concerning our city in the 21st century.  However, to do this work, myself and all other candidates need your presence and support on election day.


Taqdir Kaur Bhandal is running as an independent candidate for Vancouver City Council. Visit taqforcouncil.ca for more details.