Why I Stand With Svend Robinson – and Why You Should, Too
The day after I took a stand with my Daughters of the Vote sisters in the House of Commons on April 3, 2019, I received a Facebook message from Svend asking to connect and have a meeting when I get back home to Burnaby. As a newcomer to Canada, I was not familiar with who Svend was but a few hours of detailed research was enough to make me say yes to his invitation. Looking back, I cannot be more pleased that I did.
My name is Bella Aung, and I represented the Burnaby North – Seymour federal riding at the Daughters of the Vote 2019 program in Ottawa. I am a Political Scientist, intersectional feminist, ethnic rights activist, and a mental health warrior. I also happen to be a bisexual woman of color. Daughters of the Vote offered me the rare opportunity to take up space in political environments where women and minorities have been systematically excluded from, and I am very grateful to be a part of this experience. However, it also was a challenging time for me and many other delegates from marginalized populations. Our questions and concerns on important issues impacting our lived experiences, such as climate change and the environment, mental health, LGBTQ+ rights, and indigenous rights to name a few, were not taken seriously by our elected officials. A few MP’s even resorted to reprimanding indigenous and ethnic minority delegates for participating in a peaceful democratic protest in the House of Commons. This experience galvanized me to become actively involved in Canadian politics. I became concerned with the quality of democracy Canada has under the current leadership. I might not be an expert in Canadian Politics yet but I know one thing for sure, we need to elect officials who will serve the best interests of their constituents in Ottawa.
My first meeting with Svend was a breath of fresh air after a highly political and publicized week in Ottawa. Right within the first five minutes of meeting him, I directly told him that I would be asking him a series of tough questions on issues affecting the lives of many young people living in Burnaby North – Seymour and that I expected him to give me solid action plans. I must admit, I have asked the same questions to several MP’s I met in Ottawa. However, many of them either did not have an answer or simply changed the topic. To my pleasant surprise, within an hour and a half of talking to Svend, my fading faith in current-day politics was restored – to the extent that I wholeheartedly agreed to help with his campaign in the upcoming federal elections, and I am not one who can be easily impressed. I asked him what he is going to do about the expansion of pipelines in our federal riding. He was willing to not only show his commitment to a greener Canada but also to push his colleagues in the NDP to become more environmentally conscious. Basement dwelling students whose livelihoods were never taken into consideration by the current elected officials? Svend is keen to mobilize them and speak up against exploitative landlords, even if it will cost him elite votes. What is he going to do to address the lack of mental health resources within the Burnaby North – Seymour constituency? Svend is ready to tackle the stigma by both speaking from his own experiences and implementing more public education to promote the importance of mental health in our community.
Most important of all, Svend is not only willing to listen but also eager to incorporate the constituents’ voices in his decision-making process. This quality sets Svend apart from many other candidates running for a seat in the parliament this October. I am optimistic that he is the progressive voice we truly need to represent the best interests of Burnaby North – Seymour, and I can’t wait to help elect him this October! Onto victory!