Amarjeet Sohi broke new ground as Edmonton’s first mayor of South Asian origin, while Jyoti Gondek became the first female mayor of Calgary.

Both are of Indian origin.

Sohi, a former city councillor and federal Liberal cabinet minister, will lead a council with eight women, up from two on the previous council

The 57-year-old delivered his victory speech at the Matrix Hotel in downtown Edmonton with his wife, Sarbjeet, and their daughter, Seerat, by his side.

Sohi, who was born in Punjab, spoke about immigrating to Canada at the age of 18 with little in the way of material possessions. 

“I had a mission and dreams to build a better life in a new home, dreams that sometimes seemed impossible,” he said. “And today because of you, because of everyone in this room, we have made the impossible possible.”

Sohi was a city bus driver and an Edmonton city councillor before entering federal politics and serving as Minister of Natural Resources and Minister of Infrastructure and Communities under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

He will become Edmonton’s 36th mayor, replacing Don Iveson, who served two terms as mayor starting in 2013 but didn’t run this time around. Sohi had more than 45 per cent of the overall votes. 

Meanwhile Calgary’s first woman mayor elect Jyoti Gondek will replace Naheed Nenshi, who held the city’s top job for more than a decade.

“Thank you, Calgary, with all of my heart,” Gondek said during her victory speech. “Thank you for engaging in democracy and sending a clear signal about what our future looks like.

“History. Made,” Nenshi wrote on social media as he congratulated Gondek on her win. He, too, made history as the first Muslim mayor of a large North American city.

Gondek, 52, was born in the U.K. to a family of Indian origin. The family moved to Canada when she was young and settled in Manitoba. She later moved to Calgary with her husband, where she worked in marketing, ran a consulting firm and served as director of the University of Calgary’s Westman Centre for Real Estate Studies. She has a PhD in urban sociology and sat on the Calgary Planning Commission before running for office.

Gondek also served as a city councillor in Calgary for four years, where she championed public transit, police reform and city growth.

When asked about being the first female mayor in the city’s history, Gondek was matter-of-fact.

“It means we have normalized the fact that women and people of colour should be in positions of leadership,” she said. “It took a while, but we got there.”

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