Sharmarke Dubow was elected six months ago. He wants to move on from being known as Victoria’s ‘refugee city councillor’

April 24, 2019

By Star Vancouver |

At 35, Sharmarke Dubow has sworn more than his share of solemn oaths.

Six months ago, he vowed to serve the city and citizens of Victoria as a councillor. Just the previous year, on Canada Day 2018, the strikingly tall but soft-spoken community leader pledged his allegiance to Canada and the Queen at a citizenship ceremony.

Dubow was elected last Oct. 20 in civic elections that saw a swath of rookie councillors enter politics across British Columbia.

“For me, it has been a huge curve of learning,” he said on the Good Friday holiday. “Also, you definitely don’t get weekends or holidays (off), that comes with the job. Even when I’m walking down the street, everyone wants to talk. But I do really love that.”

His path from Somalia to Victoria City Hall is certainly unorthodox. But despite much fanfare about his past, Dubow hopes people will see him as more than a refugee.

“My story is quite long,” the business information technology graduate from Cape Breton University said. “But I’m more than a former asylum-seeker and refugee. I believe I have so much other wealth to offer my city.”

It’s on those achievements, he’s certain, that 10,590 voters checked the box next to his name in the ballot booth last fall. And, he said Friday, he intends to fight for them for the next three-and-a-half years.

Dubow’s biography traces his story from war-ravaged Somalia to refugee camps in Egypt to the bloody streets of that country’s Arab Spring to the sleepy City of Victoria — where 85 per cent of the population identify as Caucasian, and one in 20 were born in the U. K.— but it has been missing a big piece of his life story.

In the seven years since he arrived in Canada in 2012, Dubow has become a prominent community organizer and leader as a youth facilitator, affordable housing activist, and front-line immigrant and refugee worker.

Soon after moving to Victoria that year, his first job was as a youth and family worker for the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society. He later got hired by the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria, connecting volunteers with the thousands of Syrian refugees arriving under the federal government’s ambitious resettlement program that began in 2015.

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