Sharmarke's story is unlike many politicians' in Canada, and his experiences have shaped his perspective on justice, community, and what it means to be a leader. After a summer filled with calls for justice for Black lives, it's a privilege to share Sharmarke's story and amplify his vision for our city and our world.
There have been generations of organizing and people feeling this pain so maybe the climate crisis just got attention right now, but certainly in the Global South, they’ve been feeling this for years and years.
A legacy of love
Sharmarke is not a name you often hear on the streets of Victoria.
It’s a Somali name. My grandmother gave it to me - it means “see no evil”.
I’m originally from Somalia, a community driven country where neighbours know each other
I was single-mother-raised. My mother was a business woman, a hard working woman.
Her genuine integrity and compassion, and giving back, and generosity - I think that’s something that lives with me and I carry that legacy.
You know you don’t choose when you run away from your home, when you’re forcefully removed from all the things you know because of war. The civil war began because people felt they were being left out of the system - the scarcity of resources, who controls the resources, who has access to the resources, who calls the shots. So now when I see my constituents and my residents feeling anxiety and distress, I have more clarity to stay calm.
A human rights lens of eco-anxiety
Even when it comes to climate change, I use a human rights lens. Thinking about “How does this disproportionately impact low-income communities, Indigenous, Black, and racialized people, unhoused people, and the Global South?” So how do we look at that and understand that folks who are already living in poverty don’t have the same opportunity to buy their way out of the crisis. And the same is true when we’re talking about countries experiencing extreme weather conditions and food shortages, food insecurity - all despite not causing most of the problems.
How do we all care for each other?
I understand that complexity because way before I came to Canada, I lived, operated, and existed in those spaces. We have to remember that there have been generations of organizing and people feeling this pain so maybe the climate crisis just got attention right now, but certainly in the Global South, they’ve been feeling this pain for decades, and years and years.
Changing the DNA of the system
A lot of things that the Black communities or Indigenous communities that they knew about - because they experience this everyday right? They’ve been displaced due to mining companies or due to climate change, due to forced displacement, due to war. So now it became undeniable, and now people are waking up and saying “OK this is happening”. But it’s been happening since decades ago, and people have been organizing and saying this, so I’m glad now that we’re having these conversations, but the question is “What policy decisions have we made that creates these types of systems that disproportionately affect certain groups?”
When we talk about environmental justice and the framework through which we transition our society, Indigenous minds need to be at the core of this movement. I think that is the most important - when you change the DNA of the systems you are in.
I love my name because it reminds me that my grandmother put that seal on me.
And this work is overwhelming, that’s a fact. But I say “This is a generation of organizing”. So I’m just continuing that legacy.
It's humbling to hear eco-anxious stories from people who have already faced human rights crises, who have already had to learn skills to navigate loss and grief. Seeing Sharmarke commit so much time and energy toward making other people's lives better is an inspiration and call to action for us all. Thank you for teaching and guiding us,
Rachel and Kevin