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HomeBusinessVancouver election chief asking judge to decide whether candidates can use Chinese characters on civic election ballot

Vancouver election chief asking judge to decide whether candidates can use Chinese characters on civic election ballot

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Bob Mackin

The head of Vancouver’s civic election office is going to court Sept. 15 after 15 candidates applied to include their names on the ballot in Chinese characters or other languages.

Ten of the candidates are with the NPA, including Fred Harding, the Beijing-based mayoral candidate, and the party’s only incumbent, Coun. Melissa De Genova.

Chief election officer Rosemary Hagiwara (City of Vancouver)

Chief election officer Rosemary Hagiwara wants a judge to rule on the proper meaning of the term “usual name” contained in the Vancouver Charter. A morning hearing is scheduled for Robson Square Provincial Court. 

“This application is not a challenge to any candidate’s entitlement to be a candidate, but simply to use a usual name proposed in their nomination documents,” said Hagiwara’s affidavit. 

The court filing said 138 people submitted nomination documents between Aug. 30 and Sept. 9, and 15 of them submitted documents that claim they use a name that is not from Latin alphabet. Hagiwara’s affidavit said she is not aware of any judicial interpretation of the term “usual name” from the Vancouver Charter. 

“The Vancouver Charter does not specify that a candidate’s full name or usual name must be in the Latin alphabet, but section 78 of the Vancouver Charter does state that candidate names are to be ordered ‘alphabetically by their surname’.”

Candidates will not be listed alphabetically on the ballot for the Oct. 15 election. The order will be determined by lottery on Sept. 16. Hagiwara’s affidavit noted current and historical inconsistencies and omissions, and said that all candidates must swear “to the best of my knowledge, all information provided in these nomination documents is true.”

Harding did not include a name in Chinese on the ballot when he ran for mayor in 2018 for Vancouver 1st. A Chinese name was also not included on his Sept. 6 nomination form. 

On Sept. 8, NPA campaign worker James Letvinchuck emailed Hagiwara to ask why OneCity council candidate Iona Bonamis was using Chinese characters. Bonamis works as a transportation planner at city hall. On Sept. 9, the last day for nominations, Harding was among a group of NPA candidates who added Chinese characters to their forms.

Law Courts Vancouver (Joe Mabel)

According to Hagiwara’s affidavit, an election staff member fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin explained Bonamis’s name could be translated as Tao Sie Wing, her maiden last name and Chinese name. Hagiwara said that she instructed two other officials, deputies Tamarra Wong and Jessica Yee, to inform candidates proposing a “usual name” in another alphabet or language that it could be subject to challenge. 

None of the candidates in the 2017 city council by-election used a name in another language and only in two previous elections have candidates listed a non-Latin alphabet name on the ballot. In 2018, Brandon Yan of OneCity included Chinese characters. In 2014, Audrey Siegl of COPE included an Indigenous name. Neither was elected.

Hagiwara referenced an email from NPA co-campaign manager Mike Wilson, less than two hours before Friday’s fling deadline, that explained the meanings of Chinese characters for 10 NPA candidates. On behalf of Harding, Wilson wrote: “Fu is my Chinese last name, Ai – love and Dak – moral.”

Another NPA council hopeful, Ken Charko, ran for office in 2018 but did not seek to include the Chinese characters in that election. NPA council candidate Morning Lee ran for Coalition Vancouver under the name Morning Li in 2018. He did not seek to use Chinese characters then and, like Harding, only revised his documents just before deadline.

NPA school board candidate Milan Kljajic explained in an email to Hagiwara that he has used Chinese characters for his name while working at the Richmond Kiwanis Senior Citizens Housing Society, where many residents do not speak or read English and have a hard time pronouncing his first name.

Vancouver city hall (CoV)

Vision Vancouver school board candidate Allan Wong ran in 2014 and 2018 without Chinese characters, but included Chinese characters in his Sept. 7 nomination documents. Vision Vancouver council candidate Honieh Barzegari used a Farsi font on her form while Forward Together council candidate Tesicca Truong wants to use both Chinese and Vietnamese beside her name on the ballot. Hagiwara asked Truong for clarification, but Truong responded “can you help me understand what you mean by ‘indicate the meaning of the characters’?”

Meanwhile, in a virtual meeting on Sept. 10, Harding told campaign staff that the NPA would rely heavily on Chinese students, under direction from a Mandarin-speaking volunteer director. 

“A lot of our volunteers are going to be Chinese students, or families with Chinese speaking communities,” Harding said. 

Harding, who is formally Harold Christopher Harding, has lived and worked as a business consultant in Beijing since 2017, after retiring as a police officer and selling a residence in Burnaby. He replaced Park Board commissioner John Coupar, who quit the mayoral campaign on Aug. 4 in a dispute with the party board over support from developer Peter Wall. Harding claimed in his nomination papers that he resides in a Telus Garden condo, but property records show it is owned by a self-described homemaker from West Vancouver. 

Harding’s wife is Chinese celebrity singer Zhang Mi, who, after recovering from cancer last year, released a song in praise of the Chinese Communist Party in time for its centennial celebration. 

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