Coalition Vancouver candidates go to court to challenge addition of Chinese name to ballot

OneCity candidate Brandon Yan’s Chinese name will appear alongside his English name on the Oct. 20 ballot

A pair of school board candidates is challenging the fact that the local elections office allowed a council candidate to include his Chinese name on the upcoming ballot.

Ken Denike and Sophia Woo, who are running for school board with Coalition Vancouver, filed papers in B.C. Supreme Court Tuesday afternoon challenging the fact that OneCity council candidate Brandon Yan was allowed to include his Chinese name on the ballot.

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“We’re not blaming him for it, he said he got permission from them to do it,” Denike said. “They should never have given him that permission… it’s really an unfair advantage.”

This election, 71 candidates are running for 10 positions on council. To complicate matters, names on the ballot will also be randomized, instead of the traditional alphabetical order. City council approved the change earlier this year. The order of the randomized ballot will be selected by draw on Sept. 21.

In the filing, Denike and Woo are asking that Yan’s Chinese name be removed from the ballot, or other candidates be allowed to add their Chinese names.

Under the city’s election rules, candidates can be listed with any name they are commonly known as. On this year’s ballot Rollergirl is running for mayor, a council candidate is simply listed as Spike and there’s a Mrs. Doubtfire running for school board. In a previous election, council candidate Audrey Siegl also used her Indigenous name, sχɬemtəna:t. City staff told the Courier that candidates had until 4 p.m. on Sept. 14 to file their nomination papers, and “no other candidates submitted documents stating that they had a usual name that included Chinese characters.

“There were inquiries during the nomination period by non-Asian descent candidates requesting to include Chinese characters on the ballot but the requests were denied as those characters are not the candidates’ usual name.”

Denike said the party made an official complaint on Monday and asked that other candidates be allowed to add their Chinese names to the ballot. The request was denied.

“Once the candidates list was made public on Sept. 14, 2018, the Chief Election Officer received a number of requests from other candidates to include Chinese characters on the ballot,” staff said in an email. “Under the Vancouver Charter, it is now too late to change nomination documents as the deadline to submit the nomination document was on Sept. 14, 2018 at 4 p.m.”

For his part, Yan said he asked about including his Chinese name on the ballot when he went to the office to file his nomination papers. He said he had to confirm that it’s a usual name that some people know him by.

“I said yes, it was given by my family and that was it,” he said. “I think essentially what happened was I had the audacity to ask the question if it could include it.”

Yan said that his father gave him and all his siblings Chinese names when they were born. His translates to “Remember your roots.”

“I just really wanted to respect that and to honour that and for him to see that on the ballot is really important to me,” Yan said. “So that’s kind of where I came from. I didn’t realize it was going to be a thing where no one else was doing it.”

Independent council candidate Erin Shum, who is also of Chinese descent, said she was aware that she could include her Chinese name on the ballot but decided against it.

“I’m not running to represent just Chinese people, or just young people, or just women. I'm running to represent all Vancouverites,” she said. “The last thing I'm going to do is attack another young Chinese candidate for what's probably just some confusion. People are tired of that kind of negative politics, and I think they want to see elected officials work together for a change.” 


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