A woman who ran for mayor of Toronto in 2018 has pulled up stakes, moved across the country and is running for mayor of Campbell River.
Saron Gebresellassi ran against eventual Toronto mayoralty winner John Tory and placed fourth in a 35-way race.
Gebresellassi was touted as a progressive candidate in Toronto’s 2018 mayoral contest and was described as an activist lawyer aligned with human rights issues. An article in Bay Street Bull describes Gebresellassi as a human rights lawyer “with a flare for real, meaningful action while giving voice to the marginalized.”
Seemingly in contrast to that, Gebresellassi’s candidacy for mayor of Campbell River was actually first announced in April in a Facebook video posted by Colin “Big Bear” Ross who was active in the Ottawa “Freedom Convoy” that occupied the city for 23 days in January and February. Ross also heads the “Big Bear Movement” described on its website as a “worldwide support network working to empower and bring hope and strength to the world.”
Earlier this year, Ross announced his intention to install candidates in all of B.C.’s municipal elections this fall in order to further the aims of “the Big Bear Movement.” He said in a Tik Tok video that the goal is to “start to change the system from within.”
”You know, it was pretty disheartening when in Ottawa there was so many of us there, not one politician spoke to us so we just need to start challenging these politicians and weed them out,” he said. “So we’re gonna start a campaign and we’re gonna take it from there.”
On April 22 while in Nelson, B.C., Ross introduced Gebreselassi in the Facebook video as someone he met at the Ottawa rallies who was visiting from Vancouver.
Gebresellassi can be seen in the video saying: “Hello patriots. I am so proud to be in Big Bear’s hometown. He is a shining light for Canada and also a knowledge keeper, a thought leader and really helping us get through this and unify.”
Ross then went on to say that Gebresellassi will be running for mayor of Campbell River.
The Campbell River Mirror reached out a number times to connect with Gebresellassi and were able to secure an interview on Sept. 9.
Gebresellassi said she decided to run for mayor of Campbell River after visiting the city to meet with a client.
“So within the first…five minutes I was here, I was just like, ‘oh, yeah, this is home.’ And so I sort of just fell in love with Campbell River as a city.”
Gebresellassi describes herself as person who loves politics. In deciding to run for mayor of Campbell River she first asked people in her network and in the community and received some “pretty good feedback” about entering the ring.
“They would sort of light up and say, ‘Oh, that’d be awesome.’ You know…great to have some new blood, that sort of a thing,” she said.
Gebresellassi said she is not associated with Ross and is not familiar with any other work he might be doing in other municipal elections across B.C.
“My campaign is entirely independent.”
She said her campaign has no affiliation with Ross but “I did receive an endorsement.”
Outside of politics and prior to her Toronto mayoralty bid, Gebresellassi has been a trial lawyer for eight years. She has defended clients against high profile clients like Starbucks Coffee Company and the Toronto Police Service.
Lately, Gebresellassi was the lawyer for The United People of Canada, an Ottawa convoy-related group which set up headquarters in a de-consecrated church in Ottawa and were then given an eviction notice. She also defended a restaurant in Prince George that defied COVID-19 restrictions.
Gebresellassi said she was fulfilling a professional obligation and “lawyers are not their clients.”