Kwan squared off against fellow B.C. New Democrat Mable Elmore, but ultimately captured more votes at a nomination meeting on Sunday.
"I'm obviously very thrilled," Kwan said in a phone interview shortly after the results were announced.
"Moving forward, the most important job is actually ahead of us and that is working to keep Van East orange and working to elect Thomas Mulcair as the next prime minister of Canada."
The riding is thought to be an NDP stronghold and it opened up after party icon Libby Davies announced she would not run again after nearly 18 years.
Kwan is a former city councillor who was elected to the legislature in 1996 and later became the first Chinese-Canadian to sit in the provincial cabinet.
She faced controversy last year when it was revealed that the Portland Hotel Society had paid for her family's lavish trips to Europe and Disneyland, prompting her to pay back $35,000.
Her ex-husband had been an executive at the non-profit society. Kwan has said the matter is a "deeply personal issue" that she has handled.
On Sunday, she renewed her vow to fight on behalf of vulnerable groups including First Nations and temporary foreign workers if she is elected to Parliament.
"I want to see a national housing program, I want to see a national childcare program, I want to see a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls," she said.
"I want to see temporary foreign workers treated in a way that is respectful. Frankly, if they're good enough to work here they're good enough to stay."
Kwan added she wants to see Canada taking a leadership role on climate change and for Canadians to reject the Conservative government's anti-terror legislation Bill C-51.
She said she'll talk to provincial NDP leader John Horgan soon to discuss a "transition period" allowing her to exit the B.C. legislature and focus on the federal election.
Other candidates included Simon Fraser University public relations director Scott McLean and public education advocate Gwen Giesbrecht.
"I think all of the candidates brought something to the table," said Kwan, adding that she saw many community members sign up as party members for the first time.
"It made the Van East nomination race very exciting and energized the people ... That's good news for the New Democrats. That's good news for progressive politics."
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