British Columbia

'You can't just translate a flyer': social activist calls for more diversity in municipal elections

Vancouver is renowned for its multiculturalism but some Vancouverites are concerned diversity doesn’t show up at the municipal level in politics.

Ajay Puri is facilitating a public forum discussion about diversity in civic politics

Ajay Puri is the co-founder of Changemakers Vancouver and is encouraging more diversity in the upcoming elections. (Clare Hennig/CBC)

Vancouver is renowned for its multiculturalism, but some Vancouverites are concerned diversity doesn't show up at the municipal level in politics.

Ajay Puri, a social change activist and co-founder of Changemakers Vancouver, is pushing for more diversity and better representation of cultural backgrounds as the province heads towards municipal elections on Oct. 20.

"If you're talking about the City of Vancouver, the latest stats say about 58 per cent are non-white," Puri said. "When you look at the reflection in city staff or at city council or park board or school board, it's not the same level."

The latest stats say about 58 per cent of Vancouver residents are non-white, according to Ajay Puri, a ratio that is not reflected in municipal politics. (Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)

Puri is facilitating a public forum conversation Thursday around diversity and representation in civic politics.

"People really think vibrantly of the city in terms of its food, its dance, its dress, its drumming but when it comes to making decisions, where is that representation?" he said to Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition.

Unaddressed concerns

A lack of representation means that issues relevant to specific communities can easily fall through the cracks.

"I've been working with the Punjabi market, for instance," he said.

"One fourth of the store fronts are empty now … How do we revitalize these areas? These concerns are not being, I feel, addressed."

With all the election talk and focus on municipal politics in the coming month, Puri hopes to shine a light on whether city officials are doing enough to include and represent people from all different backgrounds.

"You can't just translate a flyer and then assume you're representing everyone," he said.

"We are at a crossroads and it could be really interesting times — whether people win or not — what kind of issues are raised."

With files from The Early Edition.

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