A South Asian Canadian business owner running for a council seat in Mississauga is vowing to donate 10 meals to a local food bank for every one of his campaign signs that are damaged or stolen in an attempt to turn a negative incident into a positive one.

Imran Hasan made the comment to CP24.com as he discussed a recent rash of vandalism involving his campaign signs.

Hasan said at least 10 of his signs have been damaged and several more have been stolen in recent weeks.

“At first, you know, we had signs disappearing so people were stealing our signs. And now rather than just taking the signs they're kind of leaving a message,” Hasan told CP24.com.

The 52-year-old father is running for a third time in Ward 11, which includes the Meadowvale and Streetsville neighbourhoods, but says he has never faced this sort of issue on the campaign trail before.

Hasan says he discovered the latest vandalized sign on Thursday, after a resident reported it to him.

“...My sign was damaged and it was, you know, surprisingly now next to a sign that was pristine and just newly placed. So I was a little disheartened.”

He says people might be targeting his signs out of fear because he does not “look like the average Canadian” running in the election.

“But I tell people, you know, my name and my face may look different but once you get to know me you'll find I’m just as Canadian as Wayne Gretzky,” he said.

Hasan says he has decided to respond to the hate with love by donating 10 meals to the local food bank for every damaged and stolen sign.

He hasn’t reported the damaged signs to police yet, but says he might have to if the issue persists.

“I believe deep down in my heart that the majority of the people who live in this community are peacekeeping, loving people who wouldn't do something like this, but clearly there are some people in the community who feel that tormenting and creating this kind of distraction is somehow beneficial.”

Hasan’s father was born in India and his mother in Pakistan, and the couple immigrated to Canada in the 1970s. Hasan eventually moved to Mississauga in 1991 where he is raising his two children and has a tech business.

He says he has had primarily good experiences in Mississauga, which has a diverse population of 718,000, according to the latest census.

“We’ve, through the five decades, encountered mostly positive experiences living throughout southwestern Ontario, and there's so many loving and peacekeeping people that welcome us into their communities. Then there's always some people who have perhaps some ethnic and cultural differences and don't welcome people the same,” Hasan said.

South Asian residents accounted for around 23 per cent of Mississauga’s population in 2016, the largest percentage among all visible minority groups.

However, there is currently only one person of colour on Mississauga’s council, Ward 7 Councillor Dipika Damerla.

With the incumbent councillor of Ward 11, George Carlson, not running this year, Hasan is hopeful he’ll have a better shot of garnering more votes in this election.

“This time as the incumbent is not running we've received many words of encouragement, endorsements, and donations. So it's a much different experience,” he said.

Imran Hasan

The City of Mississauga says the only other person of colour besides Damerla to sit on council was Cliff Gyles, who served as Ward 5 councillor during the 1997-2000 term and for part of the 2000-2003 term.

If Hasan wins he could be the third visible minority ever elected to council.

“It's hard to believe that with a city as diverse as Mississauga and a community as vibrant as Ward 11 in Streetsville that we only have one individual from an ethnic visible minority on council. It's clearly not a representation of the demographics that the council serves.”

Hasan says the lack of representation is problematic because individuals who get elected tend to serve more than one term and the absence of diversity could suggest a disinterest in local government.

“People don't realize the importance of municipal government and how it impacts their lives, not just on a daily basis, but on an hourly basis.”

There are five other candidates running in Ward 11 this year: Brad Butt, Annurag Chawla, Kulbir Gill, Brian Rylance and Kushagr Dutt Sharma.

Advance voting will be available in Mississauga from Oct. 13 to 16 at select locations.

Voters can also cast their ballot on election day, Oct. 24.