No Chinese and Persian language characters on the ballot, argues Vancouver’s chief election officer


Vancouver’s chief election officer has filed a court application seeking to declare that 15 candidates in upcoming municipal polls are not entitled to have their names on the ballot papers using Chinese, Persian or other non-Latin characters.

Rosemary Hagiwara filed the application in provincial court on Tuesday, naming respondents who include the Non-Partisan Association’s mayoral candidate Fred Harding (傅爱德), incumbent NPA councillor Melissa De Genova (鄭慧蘭), and veteran Vision Vancouver school board trustee Allan Wong (黃偉倫).

The application says all of the respondents submitted their “usual name” to be used on the ballot papers in both Latin characters and either Chinese or Persian.

Ten are from the NPA, two from Vision Vancouver, and one each from Forward Together and COPE.

Hagiwara argues that none of the respondents who have previously stood for municipal election used non-Latin versions of their names in the earlier nomination papers.

The matter is set to be heard in the provincial court in Robson Square on Thursday morning.

Chinese name not ‘plucked out of a hat,’ says Harding

Harding said in an interview his Chinese name wasn’t something “plucked out of a hat.”

He said he has had a Chinese name for many years because half of his family on his wife’s side are Chinese.

“So telling me that this is not my usual name, you can understand this is like, ‘You really don’t know me,'” said Harding.

NPA mayoral candidate Fred Harding, centre, says his Chinese name wasn’t something ‘plucked out of a hat.’ (Justin McElroy/CBC )

Hagiwara’s affidavit said that when Harding initially submitted his nomination on Sept. 6, he did not include Chinese characters in his usual name, but three days later, he revised his nomination to add them.

She also said Harding did not include Chinese characters when he ran for mayor in 2018.

Harding said that although the NPA had access to lawyers, none could respond to the matter by Thursday morning.

Candidates dismayed by legal challenge

Vision Vancouver says in a statement that Wong and council candidate Honieh Barzegar (هانیه برزگری) were dismayed by the possibility that their “unique and usual names” printed in non-Latin characters would be removed from ballot papers.

But the party also accused other candidates of using “cultural appropriation” by adopting Chinese names by which they are not commonly known to seek an unfair advantage at the polls.

COPE school board candidate Suzie Mah (馬陳小珠) says in a statement she felt “shock and disbelief” at being included among the respondents because her Chinese name was chosen by her parents and is part of her identity.

“The reason for using my Chinese name as well as my English name on the ballot is important to me. This is not about gaining extra votes with the Chinese community,” said Mah, adding she was not someone who sought to “make up a Chinese name” to use in the election.

COPE school trustee candidate Suzie Mah says her Chinese name, chosen by her parents, is part of her identity. (COPE)

Mah said in an interview her Chinese name was well-known among the Chinese-speaking community.

“I think that in the future, if we want people to run for office and we want people to be part of democracy, voting has to be accessible. When you put in another barrier for people to take to run for office, it is very disturbing,” said Mah.

She said time was too short for her to seek legal advice before the hearing.

Hagiwara said in her affidavit that she is not aware of any candidate seeking to use non-Latin characters on ballot papers before 2014.

Only one candidate in each of the 2014 and 2018 polls had used non-Latin characters on the ballot, she said.

In the last municipal elections in 2018, the City of Vancouver allowed only OneCity councillor candidate Brandon Yan (甄念本) to use his Chinese name on ballots while denying other candidates’ requests to do the same. The city’s decision led to a legal challenge from school trustee candidates Sophie Woo and Ken Denike.

In the last municipal elections in 2018, the City of Vancouver allowed only OneCity council candidate Brandon Yan to have his Chinese name on ballot papers. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

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