A former Vancouver cop and a B.C. aboriginal leader handpicked to run by Liberal leader Justin Trudeau in this year’s federal election were both elected Monday night in Vancouver.
Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver-South) and Jody Wilson-Raybould (Vancouver-Granville) join re-elected incumbents Hedy Fry (Vancouver-Centre) and Joyce Murray (Vancouver-Quadra) to form a strong Liberal force in the six-riding city.
Both Sajjan and Wilson-Raybould easily won their ridings, with Sajjan finishing more than 6,600 votes ahead of incumbent Conservative candidate Wai Young and Raybould beating NDP challenger Mira Oreck by 9,177 votes.
The rookie MPs have diverse and interesting backgrounds that could potentially qualify them for cabinet positions, although Fry and Murray are expected to be rewarded for steering the Liberal ship as B.C.’s only sitting MPs for the past four years.
Sajjan immigrated to Canada from India with his family when he was five years old. He grew up in South Vancouver, a point he made during his speech Monday night to supporters.
As a Vancouver police officer, he served part of his 11 years of service as a detective in the gang crime unit. He was on the job when the VPD was led by Jamie Graham, who endorsed Sajjan’s run for the Liberals.
Sajjan also served overseas, with one tour in Bosnia and three in Afghanistan. His service earned high praise from then Brigadier-General David Fraser, who wrote to Graham saying “he was the best single Canadian intelligence asset in theatre, and his hard work, personal bravery and dogged determination undoubtedly saved multitude of coalition lives.”
That quote was included in Sajjan’s biography posted on the Liberal Party of Canada’s website. Sajjan is married to Dr. Kuljit Kaur Sajjan, a University of B.C.-educated family doctor. The couple has two young children.
"I realized my experience could be really put to use in this environment," he told the Courier a few days after his victory. "I thought if I don't use my experience now, then what good is all my work in the past."
Sajjan said he first met Trudeau in Ottawa though now-retired Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie of the Canadian Armed Forces, who subsequently ran with the Liberals and was elected in the riding of Orleans in Ontario.
"I knew we had the right leadership," he said after meeting with Trudeau. "His heart was in the right place and he really wanted to make a difference. I like the plan that he had, with focusing on families and kids. To me, that's so important."
Wilson-Raybould was still processing her election night victory when reached by the Courier Friday. She said she was inspired by the "great display of democracy right across the country."
Wilson-Raybould is a former Crown prosecutor, treaty commissioner and B.C. Assembly of First Nations regional chief, serving 10 years as an elected official. She has served as director for Capilano College, the Minerva Foundation for B.C. Women, the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre and the National Centre for First Nations Finance Authority.
When asked how her background has prepared her for the job of an MP, Wilson-Raybould said, "I've had to work in complex environments and deal with issues. And the approach I've taken, and have been known for, is being a bridge builder and working with many diverse interests and approaches and seeking to try to forge consensus."
Wilson-Raybould, who is married to Dr. Tim Raybould, is a descendant of the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk and Laich-Kwil-Tach peoples. She is a member of the We Wai Kai Nation.
Though the Liberals presence in Vancouver is strong, incumbent NDP Don Davies (Vancouver-Kingsway) hung on to his seat by more than 8,000 votes by defeating Liberal challenger Steven Kou. In Vancouver-East, which has been an NDP stronghold for many years, Jenny Kwan handily defeated Liberal Ed Wong by more than 12,000 votes to keep the seat left vacant by the retiring Libby Davies.
Note: This story has been updated since first posted.