Jenny Wai Ching Kwan
With Ida Chong (elected same day), first Chinese-Canadian elected to the Legislative Assembly (1996) and first Chinese-Canadian cabinet minister (1998)
Jenny Wai Ching Kwan was born in Hong Kong and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia with her family at the age of nine. After graduating from Simon Fraser University with a criminology degree, Kwan worked as a community legal advocate in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
In 1993, she became the youngest city councillor in Vancouver’s history, serving for three years as the sole representative of COPE, a progressive civic party.
Kwan ran successfully as the New Democratic Party candidate for the riding of Vancouver-Mount Pleasant in the 1996 provincial general election. With her victory, Kwan made history – alongside Ida Chong – as the first Chinese-Canadian elected to the Legislative Assembly. She was re-elected in 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2013.
In 1998, Kwan was appointed Minister of Municipal Affairs, becoming the first Chinese-Canadian cabinet minister in British Columbia. She later held the cabinet portfolios of women’s equality and community development, cooperatives and volunteers. During this time, Kwan was the provincial government’s lead representative in developing the Vancouver Agreement – an urban development initiative that united municipal, provincial and federal governments to better address the city’s economic, social, health and safety issues.
From 2001-2015, Kwan served in various Opposition critic roles – including economic development and housing – and as Opposition Caucus Chair. In 2014, she worked across party lines, helping to inform the Government’s apology to Chinese-Canadians for past historical wrongs and discriminatory legislation and policies in British Columbia – including the disenfranchisement of Chinese-Canadian women and men between 1874 and 1947.
In 2015, Kwan secured the federal New Democratic Party nomination for the riding of Vancouver East, and in October 2015, she was elected to the Canadian House Commons as a Member of Parliament.