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TORONTO: Chinese leaders urge community to support Olivia Chow because she is a visible minority and Chinese mayoral candidate

Chinese leaders urge community to support Toronto’s first high-profile mayoral candidate of a visible minority

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 | April 11, 2014 8:12 PM ET
More from Natalie Alcoba | @nataliealcoba

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The deep-fried aroma of dim sum hung over tables dressed in canary yellow at the Very Fair Chinese Seafood Restaurant on a day that would have been ordinary, except for the appearance of Olivia Chow.

Before patrons greeted her with hugs, Ms. Chow, a candidate for mayor, sat sandwiched amongst nine members of the Chinese community in a partitioned section of the Scarborough dining hall, under two elaborate chandeliers.

They gathered this week to announce the first major fundraiser of the Chow campaign, to be held at the same restaurant later this month.

We should have someone from the minority community

Addressing the modest crowd mostly in Cantonese and Mandarin (they added comments in English for the benefit of one reporter), the speakers touted Ms. Chow’s record of pushing for Toronto’s multilingual 911 service, helping the Vietnamese boat people, and pressing Japan to apologize to its “comfort women” of the Second World War.

Lead organizer Joseph Yu Kai Wong called on the Chinese community to stand united behind Ms. Chow.

Tyler Anderson/National Post

Tyler Anderson/National PostToronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow (centre standing) announces a fundraising banquet during a press conference at Very Fair Chinese Seafood Restaurant in Scarborough, Ontario, April 8, 2014.

We are not asking people to vote Olivia because she is Chinese,” Mr. Wong, a prominent figure in the community, said in an interview. “We are asking people to vote for her because she has the quality, the integrity, and the honesty and the leadership, and the heart in the right place to bring the city forward. And because she is also a Chinese woman it would also reinforce my belief that we should have someone from the minority community [as mayor]. It’s about time.”

Ms. Chow says she doesn’t see herself as a candidate for visible minorities; “I represent all people,” she said simply in Scarborough. But, she hasn’t shied away from the issue of race, either. This week, when asked during an online chat at another newspaper how she would distinguish herself from David Miller, she wrote: “I’m not male. Not white. Want to start there?”

It is a start of sorts, since there has never been a high-profile mayoral candidate of a visible minority in Toronto, and none has worn the chains of office. Is it accurate to assume that ethnicity could play any more of a role this time than it has in the past?

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