While Canada’s recent federal election resulted in more visible minorities being elected to Parliament than ever before, many also lost and are in the process of moving forward with the lessons they learned.
Rev. KM Shanthikumar, Scarborough-Rouge Park, New Democratic Party
Rev. KM Shanthikumar is a priest who ran as the New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate in the riding of Scarborough-Rouge Park. Born in Sri Lanka, Shanthikumar moved to Canada 30 years ago. He says he was very confident about winning and was actually leading in the polls prior to Election Day.
“Until the last two weeks to the election, I was the front-runner,” he recalls.
Shanthikumar says he was not complacent, but still can’t come to terms with his loss.
“I worked very hard till the last day and I’m very surprised,” explains Shanthikumar, who lost to Liberal candidate Gary Anandasangaree. “I don’t know what happened.”
“I will come back with better plans and better ideas to win the next election.”
He says although it was a major blow, he has moved on and returned to work. A manager at a telecommunications company in Toronto, Shanthikumar says he will continue to serve the people of Scarborough-Rouge Park like he has always done.
“I’ll continue where I left off and do whatever I can to help my community,” he says. “I know there is an MP (member of Parliament) in the riding, and I will approach him and offer any help he wants.”
Shanthikumar plans to re-strategize and return to politics in four years.
“I will come back with better plans and better ideas to win the next election,” he says.
One thing Shanthikumar learned about the people in Scarborough-Rouge Park – a riding where more than 70 per cent of the population identifies as a visible minority – is that they see themselves first as Canadians before anything else.
“The people of this riding do not see anybody as a minority or immigrant,” he explains. “This is the feeling I got when I went canvassing for votes from different people from different cultures.”
Steven Kou, Vancouver Kingsway, Liberal party
Steven Kou arrived in Canada from China 15 years ago.
Having majored in economics at University of British Columbia, Kou planned to use his economics knowledge to benefit the many low and middle-income families in B.C.’s Vancouver Kingsway riding.
Kou, who contested on behalf of the Liberal party, says that people in the ethnically diverse riding accepted his campaign message.
“As a visible minority, I wanted to be the bridge between the different ethnic groups in the riding and integrate the cultures into the Canadian culture,” Kou says.
Although the NDP, which has traditionally held the Vancouver Kingsway seat, won on Oct. 19, Kou says he is happy with the results.
“The most important thing for me is to continue to work in the community and be a voice for them even though I’m not the MP,” he explains.
“As a visible minority I have come to appreciate the opportunity to run for politics. It’s a privilege.”
Kou adds that he believes this election will be a source of inspiration for young visible minorities to get into politics. He hopes to get the nod from the Liberals to try to unseat the NDP MP again in four years.
“As a visible minority I have come to appreciate the opportunity to run for politics,” Kou states. “It’s a privilege.”
Jimmy Yu, Saint-Laurent-Cartierville, Conservative party
Contesting Liberal veteran Stéphane Dion in the Saint-Laurent-Cartierville riding in Montreal was a tall order for Jimmy Yu. He ran for the Conservatives in a riding that has voted Liberal since 1988.
Yu, who migrated to Canada from China in 1981, says the area has a sizeable number of visible minorities, including a large Chinese Canadian population.
“We have very rich experiences [that] the locals here don’t have, it is therefore important to add our diversity to [government],” he says. “We are now part of Canada. It is therefore important for the minorities to get involved.”
“We are now part of Canada. It is therefore important for the minorities to get involved.”
Yu took a year off work and has been volunteering full-time for the Conservative party since the beginning of the year.
“For next year, I need to go back to work to make money to feed my kids,” he says.
Yu has not made up his mind about contesting in the next election yet.
For Shanthikumar, Kou and Yu, it will take at least four years before they may see their names on the ballot again. Though they may have lost their bids to become MPs, all three say they are winners in their own way.