Adam Suleman announced his intention to run in the Chilliwack school board byelection on Dec. 21, 2020. The byelection is set for Feb. 13, 2021. (Submitted)

VIDEO: Chilliwack byelection candidate focuses on mental health, bullying, COVID-19 safety

Adam Suleman: 'If we address mental health we can address so many other issues at the same time'

There are four candidates vying for one seat on the Chilliwack school board, in a byelection set for Feb. 13.

The Progress interviewed each candidate via Zoom recently. This is the third interview. See links below for the others.

Adam Suleman is the youngest to run in the Chilliwack school board byelection, but he is hoping voters will see that as a positive thing.

He is currently in his final year of studies at Simon Fraser University, where he’s working toward an honours degree in business administration. So he’s fairly fresh out the public school system, and eager to help drive student success in the school district that gave him a solid education. He is also eager to see visible minorities represented on the board.

And when he realized the board was in turmoil, he felt that he could step in to help.

“The tipping point for me was the hateful rhetoric and the bigoted remarks that were coming from the school board over the last few years,” he said in an interview with The Progress. “I believe leaders need to lead with empathy and compassion. There is no room for hatred or bigotry on a board, especially a board that makes policy decisions affecting people with diverse backgrounds.”

He says he isn’t aware of other visible minorities serving on the board in the past.

“I think people change the way that they conduct themselves when they are working with less represented groups, like women, Indigenous people, visible minorities, and I think a strong board is one that has diversity,” Suleman says.

“I believe it’s important to have young people making decisions at the school board level because these decisions ultimately affect young people.”

Some have questioned his stance on inclusion, as he is also the treasurer for the SFU Conservatives.

But he has stated many times, in this interview and in public Zoom meetings and written statements, that he is strongly in favour of inclusive policies and SOGI 123.

As a minority, he says he experienced being excluded and bullied in school. He would like to see more harmony on the board.

“I do believe the majority of the board has the best intentions, but I come from a place of wanting to bridge both sides. I have no intention of just working with one side and not the other. We need to find common ground.”

He has already reached out to several board members, along with interim superintendent Rohan Arul-pragasam to learn more about the roles and expectations of trustees.

He also has spoken about COVID-19 concerns in a classroom.

“I don’t think physical distancing can exist in a classroom … I think you would need a gym,” he says. “But I will support all policies that have the intention of improving the safety conditions of classrooms.”

Both of Suleman’s parents are frontline healthcare workers, and he says he would like to see a mask mandate in schools.

He would also like to see more counselling support for students.

“I know how strapped counselling resources are here,” he says. “We need to provide more counselling services to students. And we need to start looking at technology-based tools like apps… If we can address mental health then we can address so many other issues at the same time.”

RELATED VIDEO: Byelection candidate Richard Procee hopes to ‘introduce good conversation’ to Chilliwack school board

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