The Proudest Victorian Ever: A Q&A with Sharmarke Dubow

By Susan Hollis

Some people might think it special to be born on Christmas Day, but Somalia-born Canadian Sharmarke Dubow takes it lightly.  “Unfortunately, I cannot walk on water,” he says with a laugh, gracefully folding his long limbs into a sunny window nook at Habit Coffee.



Still, it’s fitting that Dubow was born on a day that, for many people, represents togetherness. The former refugee is arguably the proudest Victorian ever, or at least the proudest Victorian this writer has ever met. And the boy who left Somalia on an overcrowded boat bound for Kenya has become a man with a resonance of voice and vision that made him an enthusiastic (and successful) candidate for city councillor in Victoria’s recent municipal election. “I’m a peacemaker,” he says, “but you can’t make peace unless you engage with everyone, so I’m interested in engagement.” 

What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
Feeling comfortable, grounded and content and having human connection — this is what it’s about.

What’s your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is not knowing which land I will die on, and when.

What do you admire most in your friends?
Friendship is always transformative. Every place I go, I find friends and keep old friendships. For me, what I admire is that I get to know a bit of myself in [each] new friend.

What trait you most deplore in others?
What I might find uncomfortable is gossip and backbiting. It’s not good for community building.

Which living person do you most admire?
I admire so many people. It’s not fair to say just one. Everyone has something really beautiful … by saying one person you limit me!

What’s your greatest extravagance?
Nature camping where you can hear the waves and be in this blessed land. I’m telling you, this place — it’s a piece of heaven.

Who or what is the greatest love of your life?
My mom. I get my social justice from her … She has departed, but I think she’ll always be the love of my life.

On what occasion do you lie?
I hate lying. That’s why I speak my mind all the time. I like to be transparent. But maybe, if I’m meeting my good friend and I get caught up, I may say,“Hey, I’m on my way … ” but not give details …

Where are you happiest?
Victoria. Seriously. And I’ve travelled a lot.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Sleep more. I would love to sleep more than eight hours [a night].

What’s your most treasured possession?
I’m not attached to anything.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Becoming a Canadian citizen … will always be my biggest achievement because everything else I do from now on is from the privilege and opportunities that opened for me.

If you were a book, which one would you be?
Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl.

What piece of technology do you wish was never invented?
Weapons. I’ve seen people die since the age of eight, so yes — bombs. Guns. Weapons of all types.

What piece of technology do you wish existed?
Anything that can heal cancer, that can make people healthier …

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
I want to come back as human — life is beautiful. Would I have the same knowledge and experience? Yeah, I would be human.

This article is from the November/December 2018 issue of YA