This month marks 70 years since Sikhs were given the right to vote in British Columbia and two South Asian candidates want to mark the occasion by making a little history of their own on election day.
Liberal candidate Gurminder Parihar and NDP candidate Aman Singh are both trying to become the first turbaned Sikhs to hold seats in the B.C. Legislature.
Both men were out campaigning Saturday at the Vaisakhi festival in Surrey. The festival marks the birth of the Sikh faith and pays tribute to the beginning of the Punjabi harvest.
Liberal leader Christy Clark introduced Parihar to the predominantly South Asian crowd and got a loud ovation.
“We have never had a turbaned Sikh elected to our Legislature in British Columbia and it is about time that we elected a turbaned Sikh,” Clark said.
Parihar, who is running in Surrey-Newton, said he’s grateful for the opportunity.
“It’s a great honour to me and all the Sikh community to have an MLA that would be a turbaned Sikh,” he said.
“We’re really thankful to Christy Clark and her team for putting confidence in us and especially me.”
Chance to ‘make history’
Singh, who is running in the newly created riding of Richmond-Queensborough, was also out shaking hands and greeting voters in Surrey with his party colleagues.
The civil rights lawyer said he has no idea why a turbaned Sikh has never been elected at the provincial level but he’d love to be the first.
“That would mean the world to me,” Singh said.
“We’ve seen turbaned politicians federally but for some reason, it’s never happened in our legislature.
“You know what? I’m glad that it’s given me the chance to possibly make history. I’m okay with that.”
If Parihar and Singh are going to make history, they’re going to have to work for it.
Parihar, an accountant and small business owner, is running against longtime NDP MLA Harry Bains, who has won by at least 3,000 votes in each of the last three elections.
The Green candidate is Richard Krieger, who is one of the party’s founding directors.
Singh is facing a tough challenger as well, going up against former TV reporter Jas Johal, who is running for the Liberals.
Teacher and environmentalist Michael Wolfe is running for the Greens.