RICHMOND (NEWS 1130) — History was made in Saturday’s election, with the very first turban-wearing Sikh making his way to the B.C. Legislature.
The NDP’s Aman Singh was able to win over Richmond-Queensborough Saturday, ousting BC Liberal Jas Johal.
He says it’s important for people of colour to see representation at all levels of government.
“My entire life I’ve been discriminated against because I wear a turban. When I was younger, I got beaten up. I’ve had racial insults hurled at me as recently as, well, not too long ago, I’ve been told I’m the other,” he tells NEWS 1130.
“I’m hoping that my presence in Victoria, and the presence of other colleagues of diverse backgrounds — whether they be visible minorities or other marginalized groups — that those will continue to be a beacon to young people, and people out there that are having a difficult time. I would have been enthralled, when I was young, to see someone that looks like me in the government.”
Singh says Sikhs have been in BC for +120 years, it's about time a turbaned Sikh made it to BC Leg. "The turban is such a visible symbol, my entire life I've been discriminated against bc I wear a turban – I'm hoping my presence in Victoria will be a beacon for young people." https://t.co/XZJ5wcpHkb
— Tarnjit Parmar (@Tarnjitkparmar) October 27, 2020
Singh was born in Sultanpur Lodhi, a small town in the Punjab that is a pilgrimage site for Sikhs. It’s the place where Sikhism’s founder, Guru Nanak, “came to spiritual awakening,” Singh explains.
When he was one, his family moved to Hong Kong. He lived there until 1989, and he says he became an activist during the time he spent there. The year he set off to study at UC Berkeley, his parents moved to Richmond.
He remembers how seeing a South Asian person serving in the province’s government affected him.
“I was really ecstatic to see Moe Sahota in the legislature, I was like here’s someone from our community and that was a great step,” he explains.
“I think this is just another step forward and I’m honoured to be part of that”
Next, he went to get his law degree at the University of Victoria.
“Really, the reason I became a lawyer as well, was just to advocate for people and be their voice, and this is sort of a natural progression for me to continue to advocate for people,” he says.
Singh has practiced civil rights law for the last 21 years.
When COVID-19 closed the courts, he — like so many British Columbians — was forced to work from home.
But there was a “silver lining.” Singh and his wife have a daughter who turned one in September.
“I got to spend a lot of time with her, and that’s just been incredible. I’m loving this experience.”
One word sums up how he feels about his election: gratitude.
“I’m really grateful. It’s long past due. Sikhs have been in British Columbia for 120 years and we already have some amazing MLAs of Sikh and other South Asian backgrounds in the legislature doing some amazing work, but to be elected as someone who’s so visible — I mean the turban is such a visible symbol — it just shows how open and welcoming British Columbians are at heart.”
There are more than 200,000 Sikhs living in British Columbia.