Perennial candidate Jamie Lee Hamilton has thrown her hat into the Vancouver Parks Board race for the second time as an independent candidate.
Hamilton says it’s important to have an independent voice on the board, saying it’s increasingly becoming a department of city hall rather than a freestanding organization serving the city’s citizens.
She says the safety of people in the city’s parks is paramount.
“I still hear of people being beat up,” she says of Stanley Park and its cruising areas. “Guys down there are very vulnerable. I think there has to be an acknowledgment that the parks have to be safe for all people, especially the queer community.”
Hamilton wants to extend that safety to the city’s vulnerable youth, saying they have been especially hard hit in recent parks cutbacks. Disused fieldhouses should be used to shelter the homeless, particularly at-risk youth, among which queer youth are often disproportionately represented, she says. Youth housed there could act to oversee the parks, which would build their self-esteem, she adds.
She’d also like to see the parks board provide summer camps for queer youth, who are likely to be bullied in traditional camps.
Hamilton says the board should be giving Pride a yearly grant and provide OUR Spaces, the group working to establish a new queer cultural centre, with a space that can complement the social services offered through Qmunity. That too could be accomplished through the use of the fieldhouses, she suggests.
She has run for city council twice, first in 1996, making her the first openly trans person to run for political office in Canada. In 2000, she ran for Parliament as a Green Party candidate in Vancouver Centre. In 2005, when she campaigned again for city council, under the moniker Queen of Hearts, she appeared on the steps of city hall for a press conference adorned in a red robe and tiara.
It wasn’t the first political statement Hamilton had made on city hall steps. In the late ’90s, she left dozens of women’s shoes there to protest inaction on the women missing from the Downtown Eastside.
In 2008, she campaigned for parks board for the first time under her Queen of the Parks slogan.
Hamilton is a long-time queer activist and prostitution rights campaigner.
She has served on the boards of directors of the Vancouver Pride Society and the Greater Vancouver Native Cultural Society. She has also served on the Downtown Eastside Arts in Parks steering committee, funded by the parks board, to develop an overall guiding plan for Downtown Eastside parks. In 1996, she was awarded Xtra‘s community hero award.
Politics aside, Hamilton urges the queer community to vote.
“The municipal government is the closest to our community,” she says. “This is where it really happens.”