With Calgary’s municipal election looming, more candidates are coming forward with instances of vandalism, harassment and racism.
The 2021 civic election will result in a new mayor and at least nine new councillors.
Many candidates are running for the first time, including Grace Yan in the mayoral race. She announced her campaign on Feb. 16 and has seen her election signs damaged, stolen and defaced nearly every week since.
“Even on private property in front of houses, signs are going missing. They’re four feet by eight feet. I mean, you can’t just stuff that in the trunk of your car. Those are being stolen, vandalized or just totally wrecked,” said Yan on Sunday.
Closer to the beginning of August, Yan’s vehicle was broken into outside of her campaign office. Her backseat was full of campaign items.
“They stole everything. They cleared out the car. They took out my campaign materials.”
“Good thing we didn’t have all our campaign stuff in there, it would have been a challenge to try and get that all back,” said Yan.
Yan said she’s unsure if the vehicle break-in or destroyed signs are racially motivated. However, one of her signs was defaced with the word “Nazi.”
She said the attacks appear to be more frequent as the election gets closer.
Saima Jamal, co-founder of the Calgary Immigrant Support Society, is concerned as the attacks become more blatant.
“It’s the fact that they just don’t care anymore. It makes me really concerned. It makes me feel that there is a very ugly element in our society that seems to feel that they can voice out their ugliness openly,” said Jamal.
Another candidate who saw racist vandalism was Raj Dhaliwal, running in Ward 5.
He spoke out about the vandalism earlier this month and said he received an outpouring of support from the community.
While disappointed to see the vandalism towards other candidates, he’s happy people are speaking up.
“Candidates need to speak up, they need to make sure they say where they stand on these kinds of issues,” said Dhaliwal. “They cannot hide behind other issues now and not speak up about it. That’s why I’m being very vocal — that where I stand is that we got to fight racism.”
Yan said she is in touch with the police and reports each instance of theft or vandalism.
“We will find them because there is surveillance everywhere. The Calgary Police Service has been really just amazing in their efforts,” said Yan.
Jamal said she’s thankful to see more candidates opening up about racist experiences, adding an open conversation is a way to see some change.
“You look at their posts, you see that they are gaining strength, getting resiliency from these attacks.”
“So no matter what they do, the candidates that are racialized folks, they will go forward because they don’t have any other choice. This is election season, and putting positivity forward, even in the face of these negative attacks, is the way for a leader to go forward,” said Jamal.
Calgary’s municipal election is set for Oct. 18.
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