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Burnaby elects first Filipino city councillor

“If you had told this new immigrant kid that she was going to be a city councillor? I would not have believed it.”
Burnaby 2022 Election Candidates 1
Maita Santiago is Burnaby's first Filipino elected to office.

For the first time in Burnaby’s history, the city has elected a Filipino councillor.

Maita Santiago, a Burnaby immigration consultant and community organizer, was elected on Saturday with 11,347 votes.

Burnaby was her first home in Canada when she moved from the Philippines in 1977.

“If you had told this new immigrant kid that she was going to be a city councillor? I would not have believed it,” councillor-elect Santiago said moments after her election victory.

Santiago won as part of the NDP-affiliated Burnaby Citizens Association slate which saw six of its eight candidates win a council seat on election night.

Community organizing

This wasn’t Santiago’s first political campaign.

She said she was the first Filipino to run for elected office when she ran for Vancouver city council in 1993 with the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE).

“It’s almost 30 years later, and it’s only tonight (Oct. 15) that we’ve finally broken through and gotten a Filipino elected to a city council seat across the Lower Mainland,” Santiago said.

“I’m still wrapping my head around it, to be honest,” she said. “But it’s very emotional.”

Santiago said running in the 1993 election, along with her studies in political science at Simon Fraser University, contributed to her interest in community organizing.

“I met with some women who are organizing caregivers, Filipino women and young Filipino Canadian youth, and that was it, that was my start, in terms of community organizing, and believing that when people come together around a shared value … that it’s important.”

For more than a decade, Santiago worked as a constituency assistant for NDP MLA Mable Elmore, B.C.’s first Filipino MLA and formerly ran a family daycare in Burnaby.

She’s the chairperson of Mabuhay House Society, a non-profit dedicated to developing intercultural spaces highlighting Filipino contributions in B.C.

Housing is priority

Santiago said her priority when she gets to council is, without hesitation, housing.

“Housing was the number 1 issue that came out (while campaigning), across homeowners, across tenants – it’s an issue that my own family feels.”

She said housing anchors individuals and families. “It’s integral if we’re going to have a Burnaby that works for families,” she said.

“I’m just a regular mom with two kids,” she said. “Fundamentally, I ran because I wanted to make sure that they had a future in Burnaby.”

“When I started this, I did it because I believed in our community, and I believed in Burnaby. I’m so happy that it’s turned out this way,” Santiago said.

The newly elected councillors and school trustees will be sworn in alongside acclaimed Mayor Mike Hurley in a ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 2.