VERNON (NEWS 1130) — BC NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu was sick to her stomach when she learned one of her campaign signs had been defaced with a sexist slur and a swastika Friday.
When Sandhu got the call telling her one of her campaign signs had been vandalized she thought she knew what to expect.
“We thought it was just maybe knocked down, as a lot of my signs have been getting knocked down,” she explains.
“Yesterday, my husband and I were out and about for four hours just fixing signs. But I often wondered, ‘The other signs are standing. Why are my signs falling?’ You can tell when it’s knocked down, and you can tell when it’s just fallen because of the wind.”
Sandhu is running in the Vernon-Monashee riding in the province’s Interior, a community she says has welcomed her, her husband, and their two daughters. A registered nurse, Sandhu works at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital as a patient care coordinator.
When her campaign manager called to warn her about what had been done to the sign, she was devastated.
“I was sick to my stomach when she told me about the swastika and ‘C-word,’ but you know I had to get there to see and fix it because I still was hoping that it was not true. You live in a community, you hope that this behaviour doesn’t exist, but sadly it does,” she tells NEWS 1130.
“Actually all day’s been quite rough even though I’m used to racism and do have a thick skin. Today’s act actually not only disturbed me, it disturbed my kids. It affects your whole family.”
I’ve been to #VernonBC many times and I know this doesn’t reflect the ppl In that community but it’s an example of things people of colour have to face when they run. Stay strong and positive @harwinderndp19 We are with you @bcndp #Fighting4Ppl pic.twitter.com/xVCHhK4M5m
— Ravi Kahlon (@KahlonRav) October 16, 2020
Sandhu has run for office with the NDP twice before — in the 2017 provincial election and the 2019 federal election.
“This time actually I thought about it. I want to run, I want to get elected because I’m passionate about serving my community and bringing my knowledge and experience from working with people directly to the table in government decision making,” she says.
“I thought about it, this racism, and I even talked with my manager. I said, ‘This is the only thing kind of holding me back, the racism and the nastiness I experienced during the last election.'”
During her previous campaigns her face was slashed out of one of her signs, others were toppled, and she was the target of racist comments at a town hall. In her role as a nurse she’s been undermined and subjected to racist slurs.
“Whenever people try to break me down, whether it’s personal experience or in a political arena, it makes me even stronger. I do stumble in that day or in that moment, then I come out stronger,” she explains.
“It’s unfair and sometimes it’s a tiring journey, but I want to set an example for my two daughters and for many other women out there who need that support, and that example to uplift them. I’m determined to be a voice for people, many people, women like myself, who are still reluctant to come forward.”
But she says the work of rooting out racism, misogyny, and bigotry can’t be left to the people who experience discrimination.
“We all know — persons of colour, LGBTQ+, Indigenous people — we all know what we’re facing, we all live with it regularly,” she says.
“We all need allies, the only way we can tackle such behaviour and racism is by having allies. Among us, we know what we’re facing. We are only stronger with your support, and we do need each and every one of you to help.”
Some of the reaction to Friday’s news has been discouraging.
“One guy said, ‘Oh maybe she did it to get some more votes.’ I thought oh my god, when will this victim-blaming stop?”
Overall, she says those who support her have outnumbered those who have attacked her.
“Every single kind and caring word meant a lot, and helped me to heal today,” she says.
The vandalism has been reported to Vernon RCMP.