Why more diverse candidates aren't running in P.E.I.'s municipal elections
Thousands of people of Asian and Middle Eastern origin live on P.E.I., but few are running for council
P.E.I. is the fastest growing province in the country, and according to a Statistics Canada report, as of 2016 there were almost 6,500 people of Asian origin living on P.E.I., the majority from the Middle East and China.
But with such a fast growing population in the province, why is that diversity not more reflected in P.E.I.'s municipal elections?
Language and citizenship barriers
Paul Yin, president of Chinese Canadian Association of Prince Edward Island, said for his community, one of the biggest barriers to getting involved is language.
"A lot of people in Chinese community are very aware of the election, but because there is no very detailed translation in Chinese for all the candidates, we are not so familiar with the candidates, so not a lot of us are involved," said Yin, through translator Ally Guo.
As for people in P.E.I.'s Chinese community running for office themselves, Yin said it's a matter of citizenship.
"There are very few people in P.E.I. who became [citizens] of Canada already, so a lot us are just [permanent residents], so that's why we don't have the right to elect," he said.
Yin said in time, he'd like to see better representation on city council, and until then hopes that the current candidates will reflect the interests of the Chinese population.
Elected officials should 'reflect' society
Zain Esseghaier, spokesperson for the Muslim Society of P.E.I. said his community is interested in participating in the democratic process, but running for council has never been discussed.
Esseghaier could only speculate as to why, but said he suspects more Muslims on P.E.I. will consider putting their names forward in the future.
"I guess with the Prince Edward Island population now becoming more and more diverse, I think it might be a good idea for different groups to be represented," he said. "Or at least our elected officials should reflect the composition of the society in which we live."
'A healthy curiosity' at the door
Valentine Gomez, a candidate for Ward 4, said he thinks Charlottetown city council is lacking in diversity.
"I think Charlottetown over the years, especially the last three years, has started to grow in diversity, so I think it's important to represent that," he said.
As for his own experience at the door, Gomez, who was born in the Middle East and is mixed-race, said a lot of people aren't used to someone with a different background campaigning.
"A lot of it is a healthy curiosity. A lot of people want to know where I'm from and I use it as an opportunity to educate people and turn it into a positive experience," he said.
Not about 'colour, or ethnicity'
Paul Haddad, who is running for council in Ward 1 in Charlottetown, was born and raised in Charlottetown. His parents are from Lebanon.
He said he hasn't had any difficulty campaigning, but attributes that to how well-established his family is in the community.
"They know me, so it was much easier for me to meet them door-to-door," he said.
Haddad said he believes running for council could be difficult for anyone who wasn't well-known.
"I don't really think it's about colour, or ethnicity or visible minority, really. I think it's about people that are familiar with somebody, whoever's running."