Mark is escorted in by B.C. NDP leader, John Horgan, during
a swearing in ceremony at legislature as members of the Nisga'
a First Nations play their drums on Wednesday. (Photo: Chad
VICTORIA Drummers, dancers and politicians welcomed the
first aboriginal woman elected to British Columbia's legislature
in an emotional ceremony that saw Melanie Mark wipe away tears.
Mark wore her grandmother's traditional red and black button
blanket to the official swearing-in ceremony Wednesday at the legislature
that included welcoming songs from members of the Nisga'a Nation
from northwest B.C.
Mark, one of two Opposition New Democrats to win byelections
earlier this month, described the experience as empowering and a
symbol the province's move towards reconciliation with aboriginal
"This is such a surreal moment for me,'' she said. "It's
hard to believe it's less than a year ago I decided to run. Here
we are making history. It's really a testament of where British
Columbia wants to go, and that's really about reconciliation.''
MLA Melanie Mark during her swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday.
(Photo: Chad Hipolito/CP)
Legislative Clerk Craig James said Mark and Jodie Wickens represent
the 101st and 102nd women elected to B.C.'s legislature since 1917,
when women received the right to vote and run for office.
Mark was elected in the riding of Vancouver-Mount Pleasant and
Wickens, who was also sworn in Wednesday, won the suburban riding
of Coquitlam-Burke Mountain.
James said B.C. women now make up 38 per cent of members in
the 85-seat legislature, the highest female representation in a
Mark, 40, overcame sexual abuse, family trauma and poverty to
become a noted childhood and family advocate in her Vancouver eastside
She once worked at Vancouver International Airport telling tourists
about noted B.C. Haida artist Bill Reid and served as a deputy at
the office of the province's independent children's representative.
"Here we are making history. It's really a testament of
where British Columbia wants to go, and that's really about reconciliation.''
"This is a very moving day for me,'' Mark said. "I've
had lots of tears of hope and there's a lot of strength behind me.
I'm riding off all the strength behind me today, including my grandmother
whose regalia I'm wearing.''
Attorney General Suzanne Anton welcomed Mark and Wickens to
MLA Melanie Mark high-fives NDP leader John Horgan after being
sworn in on Wednesday. (Photo: Chad Hipolito/CP)
Anton noted that B.C.'s rich tradition of electing female politicians
"When you look at the women in this province, the lieutenant-governor
is a woman. The premier is a woman. The speaker of the legislature
is a woman. We've got senior cabinet ministers who are women,''
Anton said. "Women have done well in B.C. and I'm very proud
of that fact.''
B.C. has previously elected two male aboriginal members
Frank Calder and Larry Guno while current New Democrat Carole
James and former Liberal Marc Dalton are Metis.