If Guiscela Perez Arellano wins the Pihesiwin city council seat on Oct. 18, she will be the first female BIPOC council member in Edmonton.
The City of Edmonton records show that there have only been 31 female council members in Edmonton, and none of them are BIPOC.
Perez Arellano is from Durango, Mexico and studied public relations in Guadalajara, Mexico. Before she moved to Canada in 2012, she was an exchange student in Europe. In 2008, she spent time working as an au-pair in France.
In 2019, Perez Arellano became a Canadian citizen, and she decided to run in the 2021 municipal election after encouragement from friends and family.
Perez Arellano said she didn’t plan to run for city council, but “when things started happening in the ward that I didn’t like, I started raising my voice, I started writing emails.”
“I never thought that I would go into politics … I just care about what’s happening in the city and in the ward.”
Her partner, Elliot Motut, said he encouraged Perez Arellano to run because she is dedicated, truthful and passionate. He believes that someone as passionate about human rights, climate change, their neighbourhood and their city as Perez Arellano should be on city council.
Perez Arellano said she saw that nobody else was running against the incumbent Tim Cartmell and thought that it’s not democratic for constituents to not have another option.
She feels that by running in this election, she is giving the people a choice. “If they still choose the other candidate that’s perfect, but they chose it. I think that’s already a win.
Perez Arellano believes it’s important to bring a global perspective because Canada is multicultural, which needs to be represented in government.
“If I get elected, it will be the first female of colour, but also the (first) female Latina, I think, in all of Canada. I did a little bit of research, and I couldn’t find Latina’s in city council,” Perez Arellano said.
When she spoke to members of the Latin American Students’ Association at the University of Alberta, “they were all females studying politics and education. They said, ‘Oh, we didn’t know that a Latina was running. We didn’t know that that’s happening. We didn’t know that it can happen.’”
She was excited that she inspired others who look like her to believe they belong in government.
“Just by the fact that having more women and more people looking like the population is very inspiring for young generations,” Perez Arellano said.
Tamara Larson, who met Perez Arellano through the Rotary Club, said, “Guiscela is a very wise, young woman. She has a global perspective on many issues. Having been a rotary youth exchange student, she has been able to live in a different country, learn different cultures, she speaks four different languages …. she is a strong voice for the underdog and for those who may not actually be represented as well.”
Motut also said, “she was born in a third-world country, so she knows what a government who doesn’t care for their people can do.”
He believes Perez Arellano “will make sure that everyone is cared for in the ward. Not just the people who have the money and the voice.”
Perez Arellano found that people sometimes ask why immigrants want to have such a strong voice. She said it’s because “we choose to be here, and we want to participate because it has cost us time, effort, money just to be where we are. So we want to be involved and be heard and have a seat at the table.”
If she wins, Perez Arellano’s first task will be to tackle the City’s budget. She said she thinks one of the mistakes of the last council is that they took for granted all of the money that would come from public services, and “they planned to use it in the city, but then COVID happened, and all those revenues changed.”
Perez Arellano said she believes that the City’s finances should be run more like a household and that the city council should not make plans based on the following year’s assumed revenue. They should only work with what they have.
Perez Arellano’s supporters genuinely believe in her and her vision for Ward Pihesiwin and the City of Edmonton.
“When she says that she cares, she means it more than most people. She cares so much, and she is someone who listens,” said Motut.