ON Monday, December 7, Burbaby-Edmonds MLA and Deputy Speaker of the British Columbia Legislature Raj Chouhan will become the first South Asian to be a Speaker outside the Indian / South Asian subcontinent.
Indeed, another historic moment for South Asians to celebrate even as a record nine South Asians in B.C. were sworn in last month.
Spencer Chandra Herbert (MLA for Vancouver-West End) will be the Deputy Speaker.
Both positions are elected by the House at the first sitting of the new Parliament and with a solid NDP majority, Chouhan and Chandra Herbert’s election is sure.
Chouhan was first elected as the MLA for Burnaby-Edmonds in 2005. He was then re-elected in 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2020.
He served as Assistant Deputy Speaker and has served as Official Opposition critic for labour, human rights, multiculturalism and immigration, according to his official profile.
Chouhan immigrated to Canada in 1973. As a student in India, Raj was actively involved in student union activities. Upon his arrival to Canada, he was greatly impacted by the plight of other immigrant workers and the wide disparity between the rich and poor in a prosperous country. This contributed to his ongoing advocacy for community and social justice for workers.
Chouhan is the founding president of the Canadian Farmworkers’ Union and served as the director of bargaining for the Hospital Employees Union for 18 years. He also served as a member of the Labour Relations Board of B.C. and the Arbitration Bureau of B.C.
A founding member of the B.C. Organization to Fight Racism, Chouhan has worked relentlessly in promoting human rights and racial equality. He has served as the vice-president of B.C. Human Rights Defenders since 2003. He has taught courses on human rights, the B.C. Labour Code and collective bargaining since 1987. He has also travelled across Canada to give seminars and attend conferences that raise the awareness of issues such as racism, poverty, worker rights and discrimination.
Chouhan continues to support organizations in his community and has helped to promote diverse programs including neighbourhood safety, refugee assistance and health and wellness programs for seniors.