East of Blanca: UBC student runs for Vancouver city council to help residents “feel less lonely”

Abubakar Khan, a third-year sociology student, is taking some time off school to run for one of ten Vancouver City Council spots and help residents “feel less lonely.”

An independent candidate, Khan aims to bring different groups across the city together to tackle issues such as the housing crisis and mental health, as well as to promote innovation.

He attributes his platform’s focus on social connections to his time at UBC, where he saw a disconnection between different groups on campus. In particular, his experience working at the AMS made him realize that events organized by different faculty society executives were generally only known within their own networks.

“Right when you come to UBC, the first day you have Imagine Day and right away you’re put into your different groups,” he said.

“All these people are doing such incredible work, but the problems they have, the other groups on campus have the solutions to them … We just never cross pollinate, we just never connect.”

With this issue of social disconnect in mind, he is now advocating policies that would bring together different communities, such as intergenerational housing between older and younger people. He also wants to reduce public transit fees for seniors and children, as well as city fees for community centres while hosting more city-wide events.

“Seniors — they are a powerful, powerful group,” Khan said. “It’s always millennials are bad or seniors are bad — it’s never wait maybe we got to realize we’re all in this together.”

“We’re always in these echo chambers and we never realized ‘Wait, you know what? Maybe they figured out what I what I need,’” he added.

This sentiment is also reflected in what he called his “intergenerational” campaign team, with young people taking charge of big positions while being assisted by older, experienced advisors.

Another motivator for his platform is his experiences of feeling lonely and the subsequent “powerful feeling” of reducing it through one-on-one conversations. Here, Khan believes that young people can bring a lot to the discussion on mental health because they have grown up at a time where it’s less stigmatized and are more open to talking about it.

Outside of UBC, Khan is volunteering within his own community and working on the ground for non-profit organizations, while hosting his own podcast “The Chosen Khan.”

Beyond fostering connection, Khan also aims to inspire youth to involve themselves in higher levels of politics. He described his experience with youth councils as being more there to “tick a box” over allowing them a chance to be at the decision-making end.

“We have to empower ourselves because if we wait for someone else to empower us, it’s not gonna happen,” Khan said.

“There are 10 city councillors and there’s a mere fact that there’s no one from this [youth] demographic [is] in that room. That is shocking and that’s what needs to change. It will not happen unless we come together.”