By Brendan Kenney | The Star
TORONTO, Canada, 7 June 2018
Bhuti Karpoche made history Thursday night, becoming the first Tibetan ever elected to public office in North America. The rookie NDP candidate won the Parkdale-High Park riding by a wide margin, securing nearly 60 per cent of the vote.
The crowd chanted “BHU-TI-LA! BHU-TI-LA!” as she entered her campaign’s victory party at The Rhino on Queen St. W.
“I want to give a special shout out to the Tibetan community,” she said. “We made history tonight!”
After thanking her volunteers and supporters, Karpoche reflected on how her family was welcomed into Toronto’s Little Tibet 15 years ago.
“Only in Parkdale-High Park could a Tibetan come to Canada, be embraced, loved, and lifted to be the representative of this riding,” she said, before turning her attention to her role in opposition to Doug Ford’s government. “Tomorrow and onwards Parkdale High-Park will be ground zero in fighting Ford’s agenda here in Ontario.”
Parkdale-High Park has been in NDP hands since Cheri DiNovo won a by-election for the riding in 2006. DiNovo won three more terms before leaving politics earlier this year to become minister at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts.
Before the election she told the Star she was “really, really happy to have passed the torch to Bhutila.”
Karpoche spent eight years working for DiNovo, first in her constituency office and more recently as her executive assistant at Queen’s Park. DiNovo had wanted to add a Tibetan speaker to her staff to better liaise with Parkdale’s large Tibetan population, so she asked organizers with Students For a Free Tibet if they knew anyone who might be interested. Karpoche arrived and quickly became indispensable, DiNovo said.
“She knows Queen’s Park and she’s way ahead of the game in terms of what I walked in there with.”
Karpoche, 34, moved to Toronto from Nepal when she was 18, settling into Parkdale, where she became a community organizer. She is fluent in four languages — English, Tibetan, Nepalese and Hindi — and is a PhD candidate at Ryerson University in public health policy.
Karpoche said the most important lesson she learned from DiNovo was how to advocate for constituents. “That’s your number-one job,” she said. “Regardless of who’s in power.”
DiNovo was highly regarded for her bipartisan and tripartisan efforts at Queen’s Park, where she passed the most private-member’s bills and three-party bills in Ontario’s history.
Also running were Liberal Nadia Guerrera, Adam Pham for the Progressive Conservatives, Halyna Zalucky for the Green Party of Ontario, and Matthias Nunno and Jay Watts for the Libertarian and Communist parties, respectively.