Former B.C. legislature clerk George McMinn (left) and others watch as Burnaby-Edmonds MLA Raj Chouhan, then assistant deputy speaker, tries out replica speaker’s chair set up for tourists, spring 2013. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Former B.C. legislature clerk George McMinn (left) and others watch as Burnaby-Edmonds MLA Raj Chouhan, then assistant deputy speaker, tries out replica speaker’s chair set up for tourists, spring 2013. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

New speaker takes charge as B.C. legislature starts brief session

Burnaby MLA was assistant during Darryl Plecas era

Burnaby-Edmonds MLA Raj Chouhan took over as B.C. legislature speaker Monday, without the drama that accompanied his predecessor Darryl Plecas’s decision to split from the B.C. Liberals and support an NDP minority government in 2017.

Chouhan is part of a 57-seat NDP majority after October’s snap election, making his election as speaker a formality as Premier John Horgan heads into a brief pre-Christmas session to present plans for COVID-19 containment and recovery. Plecas retired after two terms as Abbotsford South MLA, after triggering a police investigation into spending and personnel issues that continues with two special prosecutors overseeing it.

Born in the Punjab province of India, Chouhan immigrated to Canada in 1973 and has been a lifelong advocate for labour rights, human rights and racial equality. Premier John Horgan welcomed Chouhan as an immigrant farm worker who was fired from his job in B.C., launching him on a career of advocacy for farm workers. Horgan noted that Chouhan is the first South Asian to hold the position in B.C.

“As a proud member of the Indo-Canadian community, I am tremendously proud of this historic occasion and honoured to continue my public service in this new role,” Chouhan said Dec. 7. “There was a time when people of colour were not even allowed in this building, much less this chamber.”

RELATED: B.C. legislature travel, gifts need better control, audior says

RELATED: Plecas seized hard drives of senior B.C. legislature staff

In a brief speech after being acclaimed with no one else standing for the speaker job, Chouhan credited fellow farm worker advocate Charan Gill and others for their work.

Speaking to reporters after being acclaimed to the position, Chouhan described himself as a “lifelong member of the NDP and a very proud trade unionist,” but emphasized that his role is strictly non-partisan.

“My focus is going to be to make sure that this place runs really efficiently, and everybody’s concerns are taken care of,” Chouhan said. “I haven’t seen all the recommendations made by speaker Plecas, but my focus is going to be to make question period become the most dull and boring question period.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureBC politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Protestors at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds show their support for farmers in India Dec. 5, 2020. Hundreds gathered at the fairgrounds before driving in a convoy to the Indian consulate in Vancouver to protest three new laws they say will negatively impact farmers in India. (Photo: Jason Sveinson)
Protest in support of Indian farmers planned for Cloverdale

Surrey Challo event described as ‘a cultural awakening & lively protest’

The Anti-Racist Coalition Vancouver started a petition calling on B.C.’s education officials to make Black Shirt Day official. The inaugural event in solidarity with Black and racialized Canadians takes place on Friday, Jan. 15. (Screenshot/Change.org)
Surrey students, staff to take part in first-ever Black Shirt Day

Special day in ‘recognition of the struggle for civil rights fought by Black and racialized Canadians’

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey, Langley twin brothers who own companies together battle in court

Presiding judge described Surrey resident Kerry Hawley and Langley resident Kelly Petersen as ‘self-made successes’

16500-block of 24 Avenue. (Google image)
Council pushes forward applications for 400-plus dwellings in South Surrey

Loss of trees, pressure on schools cited by public, council members as areas of concern

Members of the community participate in the 7th annual Coldest Night of the Year event Feb. 22, 2020. This year’s event will have a virtual aspect to it because of COVID, says organizer Courtenay van den Boogaard. (Photo Submitted: Amanda Grewall)
Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser to support Cloverdale Community Kitchen

Annual events raises funds to help homeless community

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. find its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials says it will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s. (Canadian Press file)
Full parole granted to former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse of boys

Alan Davidson convicted of abusing boys in B.C. and Saskatchewan in late ’70s, early ’90s

Letisha Reimer died Nov. 1, 2016 after being stabbed at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.
No evidence that killer was in ‘psychotic state’ during Abbotsford school stabbing: Crown

Second day of closing arguments at ‘not criminally responsible’ hearing for Gabriel Klein

The first COVID-19 vaccine arrives in B.C. in temperature-controlled containers, Dec. 13, 2020. (B.C. government)
More vaccine arrives as B.C. struggles with remote COVID-19 cases

Long-term care homes remain focus for public health

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in 60 B.C. First Nations by next week

B.C. has allocated 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to First Nations for distribution by the end of February

Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone questions the NDP government in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 25, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Todd Stone says he’s not running for B.C. Liberal leadership

Kamloops MLA was widely viewed as a front-runner

Wireless voice and data services are out for those on Telus as of Thursday (Jan. 14) afternoon across Western Canada, Telus Support said in a recent Tweet. (Black Press file photo)
UPDATE: Telus services restored across Western Canada

Telus said they are monitoring the situation to ensure connections remain stable

Most Read