Federal Election 2015  

Bowman: political slugger

Castanet is featuring profiles on all the Okanagan candidates in the upcoming federal election.

Norah Bowman, NDP – Kelowna- Lake Country

Norah Bowman was going to write a book and play the banjo this fall. Instead, she is running an election campaign. 

Bowman teaches English literature as well as gender and women's studies at Okanagan College and never thought of becoming a politician until one of her students put the idea in her head. 

She had been lecturing a class on missing women in Canada when she says her students became upset over Stephen Harper’s comments on the issue.

A student urged Bowman to take the issue further and consider running in the federal election.

“I was just teaching, I wasn’t involved in politics, and I brought the report from the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the report from the RCMP, verbatim report of what Harper said, and I gave it to the students to read and they were so upset,” she explained. “Aboriginal students especially feel neglected by their country, they feel their country doesn’t care.”

That conversation is the driving force behind Bowman's candidacy. 

However, it's not the first time aboriginal issues have been at the forefront of Bowman’s life. Growing up near 100 Mile House, her mother worked with First Nations reserves. 

“She took us to pow wow and she took us to sweat lodges, and I have friends now who are Esketemc and First Nations. It was a part of our growing up and our life,” she said.

Her mother continues to work with First Nations, as an employee of the Inuvik government.  

Recently, Bowman was adopted by the Nuxalk First Nation after attending a two-day potlatch in Bella Coola.

“They adopted me, and told me I am part of the family, I am Nuxalk and I should remember to speak for the people, and keep First Nations in mind when I do politics."

Bowman said she has always had a great appreciation for other cultures. Before graduating from high school, the NDP candidate travelled to Mumbai in a Rotary exchange. 

“Because I had grown up in a town of 5,000 people, it was really exciting and I would say influenced who I am today, as I was just 17,” she said. 

After graduation, Bowman went on to backpack Europe, settling in Prague, where she stayed for several years.  

She married there and returned to Canada. Though the couple recently separated, Bowman says they are on good terms. They have an eight-year-old son.

Returning to Canada at 26, Bowman decided it was time to go back to school. She earned her bachelor's degree at Okanagan University College and went on to do her masters in Winnipeg and PhD at the University of Alberta, English and Film Studies. 

“My research was on narratives of climate change and the mountain pine beetle and the B.C. Interior,” Bowman said. 

She said her knowledge of climate change, forestry practice and fire suppression helps her look at those issues in a complex way, which could benefit her position if she was to get elected. 

“I strive to be compassionate in politics all the time, I understand how hard it is to look at how complex an issue is, just like with the pine beetle.

It’s critical thinking, it's a public issue – the mountain pine beetle – but it’s also economic and environmental, it’s also cultural.”

In 2009, Bowman began teaching at Okanagan College. 

“It is great to teach issues surrounding gender studies, because everyone has the experience of being a man or woman, no matter what they think about feminism, or gender issues," she says.

Bowman and her new partner met in Kelowna City Park 17 years ago and recently reconnected. 

She says Kelowna is a great place to raise a family, although it is expensive.

"There is a ton of outdoor space, and it is clean and friendly and there are a lot of community activities to do with your family.”

She used to be an amateur boxer.

"I look to my training, I look to focus on staying in the moment, and it’s this training which has really helped me over the years. There is something to be said for learning how to take a hit,” she laughed, musing over how it could lend itself to politics. 

“You know, as hard as something is, if you wait long enough, it will get better.”

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