Trans activist Susan Gapka announced her intention to seek the NDP nomination for the federal by-election in Toronto Centre via Twitter Aug 19, bringing the total number of competitors to three.
Gapka will compete against journalists Jennifer Hollett and Linda McQuaig. She has long been known in the community for her activism on trans issues and social housing, as well as for her two previous runs for city council. She’s also been an NDP activist and serves as the vice-president of the provincial NDP riding association for Toronto Centre.
Still, Gapka’s declared her candidacy quite late. Following the entry of two high-profile candidates, the party had already announced that it will hold the nomination meeting on Sept 15, and only members signed up before Aug 16 will be eligible to vote. That means Gapka will be able to campaign only to active members and will not be able to sign up new members to vote for her.
She says that she entered the race because friends and colleagues had encouraged her and that it’s important that there be a queer candidate. “We want to see members of disadvantaged unrepresented communities reflected in the political process,” Gapka says. “It’s truly important that we have someone from that community to speak in the caucus. We have the business and corporate world, but we don’t have trans people involved in the process.”
Gapka’s had a long history of community activism, including founding the Trans Lobby Group and the successful campaigns to relist sex-reassignment surgery under OHIP and include gender identity as a prohibited ground for discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code. She’s currently working to get a similar bill to amend the Canadian Human Rights Code and the hate provisions of the Criminal Code, Bill C-279, passed.
She says that as a caucus member she’d like to work to get C-279 passed, formulate a government response to homophobia at the Sochi Olympics and bring back the court challenges program, which helps fund human-rights challenges to the law. A recent graduate of York University and a former homeless person herself, she’d also like to work on homelessness and post-secondary education issues.
The NDP nomination meeting will happen at the YMCA at 20 Grosvenor St, Sept 15 at 2:30pm.
Three candidates are currently vying for the Liberal nomination – Todd Ross, Chrystia Freeland and Diana Burke – although a meeting date has not yet been set. No one has announced their candidacy for the Greens or the Conservatives. A by-election is expected to be called in the fall to fill the vacancy created when Bob Rae retired July 31.