Jyoti Gondek in Calgary; Amarjeet Sohi in Edmonton
Historic turning point in “ultra-conservative” Alberta: in the two main cities of the province, a woman with Punjabi roots (in Calgary, for the first time) and a Sikh immigrant from India (in Edmonton, for the first time) were elected mayors.
Jyoti Gondek is therefore the first female mayor of Calgary. Born in London in England to Punjabi parents, she moved to Canada with her family in the early 1970s. Jyoti (whose name in Punjabi means “light”), 52, will replace Naheed Nenshi, who has held the most important role in the city for more than a decade.
“Thank you, Calgary, with all my heart,” Gondek said in her victory speech Monday. “Thank you for engaging in democracy and sending a clear signal about what our future will look like. Thank you for embracing a vision of promise and opportunity.”
And outgoing mayor Nenshi himself underlined the extent of Jyoti’s victory, with a significant tweet: “History. Done. Congratulations Jyoti Gondek, to you and your team”. He too had made history as the first Muslim mayor of a large North American city.
In Edmonton, former federal government minister Amarjeet Sohi, a Sikh immigrant from India, has instead become the first mayor of South Asian descent.
“As an 18-year-old immigrant without much to my name, I had ambitions and dreams of building a better life in a new home – dreams that sometimes seemed impossible,” Sohi, 57, said during his post-victory speech on Monday evening. “Today, thanks to everyone, we have made the impossible possible.”
Sohi was a bus driver and Edmonton city councilor before entering federal politics and serving as Minister of Natural Resources and Minister of Infrastructure and Communities under Premier Justin Trudeau.