Victoria Coun. Sharmarke Dubow faced said the racism he faced after his holiday travels are a reminder that anti-Black racism exists in our community. (Photo by Quinton Gordon)

Victoria Coun. Sharmarke Dubow faced said the racism he faced after his holiday travels are a reminder that anti-Black racism exists in our community. (Photo by Quinton Gordon)

Victoria councillor faces racism after holiday travel

Sharmarke Dubow’s career focuses on marginalized communities

While several politicians faced backlash for travelling in December, a Victoria councillor also received racist messages.

In January, Coun. Sharmarke Dubow came under fire for travelling to Somalia and Kenya, despite COVID-19 travel advisories urging Canadians to stay in their communities.

He said he went to East Africa to support his family during the pandemic.

“I know there are many Victorians and Islanders who haven’t seen their loved ones, many of whom are living with considerable hardships and are vulnerable to COVID-19,” he said. “So my desire to see my family was not unique.

“I understood why people were angry and upset and disappointed, which they had the right to be upset and angry. And I respect that.”

Alongside the anger coming into Dubow’s inbox, was racism.

“This is not new or unique to my experience. Many Black, Indigenous, people of colour, face these kinds of messages regularly,” he said.

“And this is a reminder that regardless of our individual experiences and achievements as Black people, anti-Black racism continues to create poor outcomes for Black communities across the country,” he added. “We need to work together to build communities that are stronger and healthier.”

READ ALSO: Mifflin Gibbs: First Black man elected in B.C. won a Victoria council seat in 1866

Dubow, a politician and community advocate, has been trying to do just that for several years.

In 2018, the Somalia-born, former refugee became Victoria’s first Black councillor in more than 150 years, following in the footsteps of famous Victoria councillor Mifflin Gibbs, the first Black man elected in the province.

But 152 years after Gibbs made history, Dubow is still one of only a few Black municipal politicians in the country.

“People of African descent and Black communities are underrepresented in politics in all sectors,” he said. “And this really impacts how we see ourselves in the spaces we exist and move through.”

At eight years old Dubow fled Somalia with his older sister. He lived in a refugee camp in Kenya and spent two decades moving from place to place, in search of a permanent home, until he immigrated to Canada in 2012.

His career focuses on marginalized communities – working at the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria and the Victoria Immigrant Refugee Services Centre as well as the Victoria Tenant Action Group.

“I come from a humbling beginning where I watched my mother stand against injustice,” he said. “She was outspoken and would also speak up for those who had less, but she also had a compassion for everyone she met. So when I ran for office, I did it for my community.

“I wanted to be part of pushing for more inclusivity.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

– With files from Canadian Press.

READ ALSO: Victoria councillor nominated one of Canada’s top immigrants


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