The Non-Partisan Association (NPA) has made a big mistake. That was the consensus of the nearly 50 people that gathered outside Little Sister’s bookstore Sep 2 for a rally to support Jamie Lee Hamilton.
Hamilton, a transsexual sex-trade activist, wanted to run on the NPA slate for a seat on the Vancouver parks board in this November’s municipal election.
The NPA holds its nomination meeting Sep 13, at which time the membership decides which candidates will run on the party’s slate. But Hamilton won’t be among their options.
Though the NPA hasn’t officially given her a reason for preemptively refusing her candidacy, Hamilton believes the party’s refusal revolves around her posting an ad on ShemaleCanada.com and her work in the sex trade.
NPA president Ned Pottinger says the party’s candidate committee examines all potential nominees closely to see if they would be compatible with the NPA team.
“During the interview process, we were all quite impressed with Jamie Lee,” he says.
Still, he adds, “I think she might be better working outside of a team.”
“This can’t be swept under the carpet as something that happened and then we go on with city politics and the election,” Little Sister’s co-owner Jim Deva told the rally. “This isn’t good enough. We need to take our morality and leave it at the door.
“I think the most important part of this problem is the fact that our sex-trade workers are not allowed to talk about their problems,” Deva continued. “They are somehow shut down and we have never had a decent space in this city at any level which we ask our sex-trade workers to come in and sit down together and solve this problem and Jamie Lee would have helped with that process.”
Deva added that the multiculturalism and diversity that defines the city should be reflected in the Vancouver’s elected boards.
“The government has no business to tell us that we don’t belong in the circle,” added Sandra Laframboise of the Dancing To Eagle Spirit Society of two-spirited people. “The government has no business to tell us that we can’t run for office. We are in 2008! Wake up, people. Wake up!”
“Someone, sometime, some day has to take the risk of mounting a platform to give voice to the first words on the road to decriminalizing prostitution,” said Alan Herbert, who served one term on city council with the NPA.
“The Canada I love is that Canada that is fair and open and compassionate and that feels pride in our diversity and that is a leader in human rights,” Green Party leader Adrienne Carr told the crowd. “The actions of the NPA are antithetical to the kind of Canada and Vancouver that I love.
“We can’t solve problems if we can’t name them and we can’t name them if we can’t discuss them,” Carr continued. “I think the NPA should rethink what they’ve done.”
“What they [the NPA] are looking for are sheep,” suggested David Wong, Chinatown community leader and ally. Wong said the city is about diversity and the NPA missed a great opportunity as Hamilton would have driven that point home.
It’s time to adopt a more progressive way of thinking, said queer parks board commissioner and NDP Vancouver-West End hopeful Spencer Herbert.
“We can put away the idea that you can discriminate against sex-trade workers, that you can discriminate against transgender people, that you can discriminate against people that are different,” he said.
Hamilton told the crowd she felt exploited by the questions she was asked by the NPA’s candidate selection committee. “They went on about my sex life,” she alleged. “They just delved into so many things about my bedroom.”
Hamilton said she told the committee that she refused to hang her head in shame over how she has lived her life and that she was proud of what she had to do to survive, referring to her sex-trade work.
“I don’t want children in the inner-city to feel shame about living in poverty,” said Hamilton.
“I don’t want women and men who need to be out on the streets in order to survive to feel any shame. I don’t want gay, lesbian, transgender and transsexual people to feel any shame about who they are and also I don’t want our First Nations people — because of inaction by legislative bodies — to feel that they have to hang their heads in shame,” she continued.
Hamilton is seeking legal advice to determine whether she will file a human rights complaint against the NPA.