"THIS IS AN ACCOMPLISHMENT AND A FEAT"
VERNON - Vernon’s rich cultural diversity is being reflected and celebrated on the community’s new city council.
In the 2014 civic election, voters elected Akbal Mund for mayor and Dalvir Nahal for city councillor, making them the first individuals of South Asian heritage to sit on Vernon city council.
“It’s a big deal for someone of South Asian descent to represent our community,” Nahal says. “It shows how far we’ve come.”
From radio interview requests to congratulatory phone calls locally, provincially, and from as far away as India, Nahal says she’s been overwhelmed by the interest in her achievement.
“There’s been a lot of excitement,” she says. “It’s truly humbling.”
Mund, who’s lived in and run a business in Vernon for many years, agrees the times have changed considerably.
“It doesn’t make a difference anymore where you come from. It’s more of what people think you can do for the community, that’s how they make their decisions,” he says.
Nahal estimates the East Indian population at roughly 400 people in Vernon, and of those, she says only about 200 are eligible to vote. Longtime Vernon resident Bhupinder Jaswal says that shows how much the rest of the community embraced the candidates.
“They weren’t voted in because they’re Indian but because people thought they could represent the community at large,” Jaswal says. “I’m proud that she (Dalvir) is Indian and didn’t let that stop her. She trusted that the people in Vernon would vote for her because of who she is, not what her background is.”
In her time living in Vernon, Jaswal can’t remember any visible ethnic minority representing the community on city council.
“I think this is an accomplishment and a feat. It’s pretty remarkable to have an Indian mayor and an Indian councillor elected in the same year,” she says. “More than that, I think having diversity on council is exciting for everyone, not just the East Indian community. It shows anyone can be involved, no matter what their ethnicity.’’
It also demonstrates people immigrating to Canada want to be involved in their communities and can make positive contributions, Jaswal says.
"We want to be leaders, not just residents. We want to help shape the futures of the communities we live in," Jaswal says.
Outgoing mayor Rob Sawatzky welcomes the diversity as a progressive step.
“Council should reflect the community in all ways,” he says. “I think it’s healthy and exactly the way it should be.... That’s the whole point of having seven members of the community bringing their various perspectives and views to council. It makes for a vibrant decision-making process.”
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