A Vernon-Monashee candidate in the provincial election is saddened but determined after one of her campaign signs was vandalized with crass and racist graffiti, Friday morning.
BC NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu received calls that her sign at the corner of 27th Avenue and 43rd Street in Vernon had been defaced with a swastika, the ‘C-word’ and scribblings over an image of her face.
“I’m just trying to wrap my head around it,” Sandhu said by phone, shortly after she, her husband and members of her campaign team replaced the sign.
“It just baffles me. I was questioning, standing and looking at the sign, what made these people think that I’m less Canadian than they are?”
It’s not the first time the Vernon registered nurse has faced racism, inside or outside of politics.
“My signs are being knocked down from Lumby to Vernon and the other (candidates’) signs are standing,” she said, adding her team was heading out to deal with signs knocked down across from Marshall Fields when she got the call about the hateful graffiti.
Kyle Delfing, fellow Vernon-Monashee candidate for the BC Conservatives, denounced the vandalization of Sandhu’s sign in an email Friday.
“I don’t appreciate the hate that comes with elections and feel we must all stick together to stop it in its tracks,” he said.
Keli Westgate, BC Greens candidate, said she was “extremely disappointed and disgusted,” with the act of misogynist and racist vandalism.
“I wholeheartedly denounce these actions and send support to Harwinder, who should never have to experience this kind of thing here or anywhere,” she wrote on a social media post. “Racism in any form is completely unacceptable and I encourage anyone who sees it or hears it to speak up strongly to counteract it.”
Incumbent MLA and Liberals candidate Eric Foster too denounced the act of hate.
“This is disgusting,” he wrote. “No one should ever be subjected to this kind of behaviour. Vernon is better than this. The individual or individuals responsible for this kind of racism have no place in a civilized society.”
Sandhu said she’s used to being the subject of racial slurs from the occasional patient at the hospital and draws strength from the colleagues who stand by her.
“The reassuring part is that my coworkers often feel more offended — I am too, but you get used to it, you just kind of move along,” she said.
She wishes the culprit would have reached out to her directly rather than scrawling hate.
“I wish they could come and talk to me so I could tell them how much gratitude I hold in my heart for Canadians and Canada because I am a proud Canadian. I have so much to be grateful towards Canada and towards the Okanagan and the people.”
Sandhu received many kind messages from supporters who saw the sign before it was taken down. This is giving her the strength to resolve to represent not only people of colour but all Canadians, she said.
“That’s what helps us to move forward, and again, this type of behaviour I’ve been through enough in my lifetime. If it doesn’t break you it makes you stronger.”
Sandhu said it’s far more common to see hateful messages written on online spaces than physical ones. Having run for the NDP Party in the 2019 election, she said she’s saved screenshots of racist messages she received during that campaign and uses them as motivation.
“It inspires me to go forward. It’s sad and it’s hurtful, but then it’s how you channel your energy in the right direction and positive manner.”
Ravi Kahlon, BC NDP candidate for Delta North, responded to the incident on Twitter.
“I’ve been to Vernon many times and I know this doesn’t reflect the people in that community but it’s an example of things people of colour have to face when they run,” his Tweet reads.
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