SFYOU: Alumna Yvonne Hanson takes her environmental and humanitarian activism to the federal campaign

One year after graduating from SFU, Hanson runs as the NDP candidate for Vancouver-Granville

Photo: Yvonne Hanson

By: Yelin Gemma Lee, Peak Associate 

Name: Yvonne Hanson 

Pronouns: She/her/hers

Department Affiliation: BA, Political Science

Hometown: Squamish, BC 

Occupation: NDP candidate for Vancouver-Granville, portrait photographer, customer service worker at a garden store. 

Only one year after graduating with her bachelor’s degree from SFU, Yvonne Hanson became Vancouver-Granville’s NDP candidate. If elected this October, Hanson would be the youngest female MP in Ottawa. When Hanson walked across the convocation stage, she had no idea she was going to be running for office this October. Although she had been involved in previous campaigns as a volunteer, she had intended to gain more experience working on campaigns and with the city before considering a run of her own. 

I went to visit Yvonne at her campaign office on 1067 West Broadway and had a chance to interview her before we went out canvassing around the neighbourhood with her and several other volunteers. Yvonne led me to her office, which, at the time, was cluttered with campaign supplies. She expressed glee over the fact that they had finally acquired a proper desk. 

Hanson attributes her experience at SFU as one of the key factors in her feeling completely equipped and prepared for this election campaign. Involvement with the SFU NDP Club helped her keep up with changes within the party while allowing her to form connections with people who are now supporting her campaign. 

“You know,” Hanson said, “before [my education] I had a loose idea of what I believed in, but I didn’t really understand how multiple different issues kind of intersected with each other.”

One of those values that became evident as we talked was climate change — which shines through in her platform and decision to run. 

“Given the gravity and immediacy of the climate crisis I figured we don’t really have another 10 or 12 years for me to wait until the perfect moment to start running. So that’s why I’m here now, doing it so soon,” Hanson expressed with a determined look on her face. 

Between graduation and the time she decided to submit her candidacy, Hanson was busy pursuing activism in a big way. Much of this included climate change activism, but she was also involved in the Voice of Ituri project, which aimed to facilitate independent journalism in the midst of the humanitarian crisis occurring in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Right now, the news outlets are all government-run or otherwise corrupted by misinformation. So the project basically helps journalists get in and give information, as well as helping to disseminate technology to help raise awareness of the crisis in the outside world,” Hanson explained passionately. 

Outside of SFU, it is through her work in activism that she learned the most about her beliefs and how they translate into politics and leadership. It was, coincidentally, during an activist meeting, that she discovered there would potentially be no NDP candidate in Vancouver-Granville. 

“My core fundamentals have been shaped by my place in the activist movement and seeing [things] like how the lack of housing justice in our city affects people firsthand,” Hanson said.

“Talking to people being evicted down in Oppenheimer Park and hearing these stories about being in shelters, being shoveled around SROs [single room occupancy units], and treated like animals instead of people, like problems instead of people [ . . . ] that has definitely galvanized my will to fight really hard and not compromise on things that I believe in.” 

These convictions solidified through her experiences in both environmental and humanitarian activism, and they have given Hanson drive throughout the campaign. Hanson registered her name on the ballot to become the NDP’s candidate over the summer, and this was only the beginning. She has been canvassing and putting in campaign hours, both in and out of office, six days a week with her team of volunteers ever since. 

Hanson recalls how she felt in the moment when she found out she was officially running in the riding, which was a surreal experience for her.

“I remember the moment after I was vetted and the other person who was considering running in this riding had a conversation with me and then pulled out, I was like wow, okay — I’m in.” Hanson said.  “It’s sink or swim now, there’s no turning back.”

“I didn’t anticipate the broad spectrum of people who are inspired by the messages that our campaign and the NDP is putting out,” explained Hanson. “Particularly, things like the wealth tax and the Green New Deal are very appealing to a broad range of people.”

Hanson’s boldness has been compared to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by other press and associates. Observers point out that they both bring transparency and a streak of hope to the dire political scene.

“You can’t go halfway with justice and have it still be justice,” declared Hanson boldly. “I’m here to challenge the status quo and I’m very excited about that and, hopefully, I can make (AOC) proud.” 

After canvassing with Hanson for a few hours, I couldn’t help but feel utterly inspired by how she put on a blazer and a brave face, even when doors would slam in our faces. She would smile and move on to the next door without missing a beat. 

Once all the work was done, the campaign crew and volunteers climbed up to the rooftop of the campaign office and had a drink to celebrate a good day’s work and, of course, Hanson’s potential. Equipped with her extraordinary ambition, passion, and political knowledge, Hanson is ready to take the issues that mean the most to her, and the people, all the way to Ottawa.