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LGBT candidates announce bid to contest civic elections

Jamie Lee Hamilton and John Yano seek COPE nod to run for park board and city council

Jamie Lee Hamilton (left) announced that she is once again seeking nomination to run for the Vancouver park board, this time on the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) slate. Former Non-Partisan Association (NPA) mayor Phillip Owen (right) attended the Aug 23 announcement. Credit: Jeremy Hainsworth

Jamie Lee Hamilton has announced that she’ll once again seek nomination to run for the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation in the Nov 15 municipal elections, this time on the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) slate.

Hamilton made the Aug 23 announcement with former Non-Partisan Association (NPA) mayor Phillip Owen at her side. Current NPA Councillor Elizabeth Ball also attended the announcement.

Social and environmental justice advocate John Yano, who is gay, is seeking to run for city council under COPE’s banner.

It’s the third time Hamilton has sought to join commissioners at the park board table.

She says a community centre for the queer community is an issue that needs to be advanced, as does ending privatization of public space and maintaining parks safety.

BC’s queer resource centre, Qmunity, was allotted $7 million for a new multipurpose community centre in Vancouver by city council in December. Hamilton says the park board has the capacity to help the community come together on a queer community centre rather than be divided over it. Such positive cooperation would help create a more inclusive centre, she adds.

“I think Vision dropped the ball here,” she says. “They promised money to one group, but that one group doesn’t have the support of the community,” she claims. She also raised concerns about park safety, saying that despite gains made in the wake of Aaron Webster’s beating death in Stanley Park in 2001, she still hears about gaybashings “going on down there.” Hamilton says people are not comfortable disclosing what’s going on for fear of being outed.

The future of land around the Aquatic Centre is also coming up as an issue, with some expressing concern that it will be handed to developers, she adds.

Hamilton has run for city council twice, first in 1996, making her the first out 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 1990s, she left dozens of women’s shoes there to protest inaction on the women missing from the Downtown Eastside. In 2008, she campaigned for park board for the first time under her Queen of the Parks slogan. She ran again three years later. 

Hamilton is a longtime queer activist and prostitution rights campaigner. She has served on the boards of the Vancouver Pride Society and the Greater Vancouver Native Cultural Society. Hamilton has also served on the Downtown Eastside Arts in Parks steering committee, funded by the park board, to develop an overall guiding plan for Downtown Eastside parks. In 1996, she was awarded Xtra’s community hero award.

Hamilton purposely made her announcement at Emery Barnes Park at Davie and Seymour streets. She accused the governing Vision Vancouver party of upzoning part of the park for development. “If you claim to be a green party, why do you take away green space?” she asks.

Hamilton also opposes the attempt to bring all the community centres under one umbrella, saying the now-pending court cases some centres have initiated are a waste of money.

For his part, Owen accused the Vision administration of a lack of transparency, saying decision-making has gone on behind closed doors and should be opened up to the public.

Yano is a member of the BC NDP’s executive, a former Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) shop steward and a member of two provincial union committees, including the LGBT Standing Committee. He currently sits as COPE’s LGBQ representative.

Yano would like to see space for LGBT seniors’ facilities located both downtown and in the Commercial Drive area.

He is also a proponent of public access to garden space, calling Canadian Pacific’s dismantling of the Arbutus gardens an “outrage.” Yano says garden space should be made available in the city as a matter of course, not as a tax shelter for developers who get deals for providing park space.