Former Somali refugee elected Victoria city councillor in first election he votes in

For Sharmarke Dubow, a former refugee from Somalia, the Victoria municipal elections over the weekend were a groundbreaking day — he cast a vote for the first time and was elected city councillor.

Sharmarke Dubow became a Canadian citizen last year

Somali refugee Sharmarke Dubow was elected to Victoria city council in the first election in which he was eligible to vote. (Sharmarke Dubow/Twitter)

For Sharmarke Dubow, a former refugee from Somalia, the Victoria municipal elections over the weekend were a groundbreaking day — he cast a vote for the first time and was elected city councillor.

He ran under a slate called Together Victoria, along with newly-elected councillors Laurel Collins, a UVic PhD student and lecturer and Sarah Potts who works at the inner-city community centre, Our Place Society.

"The first time to cast a vote but also be elected is so overwhelming. For me, this means a lot," Dubow said.

"For 20 years, I did not have a citizenship, so coming to Canada was the most important thing in my life."

Dubow fled Somalia as a child and lived in Ethiopia and Cairo before coming to Canada. He gained Canadian citizenship last year.

"I bring perspective as someone who didn't grow up here," he told Gregor Craigie, the host of CBC's On The Island.

Since being in Canada, Dubow has focused his work locally on helping resettle and integrate refugees and other newcomers to Canada with the Intercultural Association of Greater Victoria.

For Sharmarke Dubow, a refugee from Somalia, the Victoria municipal elections over the weekend were a groundbreaking day - he cast a vote for the first time and was elected city councillor. 6:37

Affordability: key issue

As city councillor, he plans to focus on affordability in Victoria.

"Everyone I've talked to — either a senior with a fixed income or a student or an immigrant or a young family — affordability is a top issue on their mind," he said.

"This is a huge issue in our city and, I believe, in our country."

He said he's keenly aware of the amount of trust put into him by the residents of Victoria by electing him to council and is excited to start in December.  

"Victoria, thank you," Dubow said.

"This is a huge responsibility and I look forward to working with everyone."

With files from On The Island

Read more from CBC British Columbia