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Canada declares Victoria councillor a noteworthy historical figure

Coun. Sharmarke Dubow shares the title with likes of Viola Desmond and Harriet Tubman
Coun. Sharmarke Dubow said he was incredibly humbled to learn about the award via Twitter. (File contributed/ City of Victoria)

Shamarke Dubow is not just an important figure in today’s day-to-day direction of the city of Victoria.

He’s making his mark on Canadian history.

Dubow, Victoria’s first Black city councillor in 152 years, was recently awarded the distinction of being named a Noteworthy Historical Figure by the Government of Canada.

He shares the distinction with 68 other Black Canadians, including Harriet Tubman, the champion for the underground railroad away from U.S. slavery, civil rights advocate Viola Desmond, Dr. Alexandria Bastiany, Canada’s first Black woman in interventional cardiology, and Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré, who from 1996 to 1999 was the University of Windsor Faculty of Law’s first Black dean.

Dubow told Black Press he was incredibly humbled to learn of his award over Twitter.

He considers himself a unique choice, as a young Black man who arrived to Canada within the past decade.

“That is the testimony to the diversity of Black Canadians. While some of us trace our roots in Canada for many generations, others have immigrated in recent decades. They have contributed in many ways to the growth and development of this country,” he said.

Dubow was elected to council in 2018 following participation in the inter-cultural Association of Greater Victoria and the Victoria Immigrant Refugee Services Centre.

In the four years following, the Somalian-Canadian played a key role in developing Victoria’s first-ever strategy for improving the lived experience of immigrants and people of colour.

When released in October last year, the Welcoming City Action Plan declared that Victoria’s success as a “globally influential, culturally vibrant, and inclusive community” couldn’t be achieved without that improvement, and asked school boards, employers and law enforcement to hold themselves accountable for any biases. Recommendations for city policy included the improvement of transit subsidies and the creation of an anonymous reporting system for incidents of racism or fear-mongering.

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“We need strong communities that are connected and actively include people of all backgrounds. [Victoria] can meet its highest economic potential by unleashing the power of its biggest assets: its people,” Dubow said.

On top of months of community consultation, Dubow’s strategy had been informed by time with the Canadian Council for Refugees. There, he was co-chair of immigration and settlement and on the steering committee of overseas protection.

Dubow said the most important consideration for any policy is in human rights.

“It reminds us that each and every one of us is worthy of consideration and care. Human rights are not about catering to people who are already having their basic needs met, but building a community that leaves no one behind,” he said.

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