Trans activist Jennifer McCreath is making history as the first trans person known to run for city council in St John's, Newfoundland.
McCreath, who will also be running for the position of deputy mayor, says politics is in her blood. Her father, Peter McCreath, was a federal cabinet minister under Kim Campbell, and her mom was a senior policy advisor for 20 years, she says. “Government, politics and public policy have been in my life since day one."
McCreath says she fell in love with the East Coast and its friendly citizens when she moved to St John's from Toronto six years ago. She was born in Halifax but moved to Toronto at a young age. She has recently been a vocal champion of the federal trans rights bill, C-279, which has yet to pass. “Nowhere I have ever lived has felt like home as much as here,” she says. “I love this city.”
Which is why McCreath says she wants to have a voice in the future of St John's. “St John's is going through a major economic boom right now, and it’s a very critical and important time for this city. We need a good mix of people on city council who can bring a variety of different ideas to the table.”
She says she wants to be a voice for queer people in St John's and hopefully encourage others to run for public office.
The trans community in St John’s is small and still mostly in the closet, she says. “We have about 100,000 people in St John's, 200,000 in the metropolitan area, but we’re happy if we get 500 people to the Pride parade.
“I think it’s very important for members of the LGB and especially T communities to not shy away from public life,” she says. “I want to see more of us step up to the plate. We represent approximately 10 percent of society, but we are very under-represented in public office, not just in Newfoundland, but throughout Canada and around the world.”
When she first arrived in the city, McCreath says, she was the only out trans person. That’s changed over the past six years. This year’s Pride marked the first time a trans contingent marched in the parade.
McCreath says she vows to continue working to make St John's a welcoming and accepting city for everyone. “I’ve had people come to me and tell me that they’re trans and they don’t know what to do. I warn them that Newfoundland still has a long way to go.”
A recent gaybashing in St John's shocked the community, she says. Pattrick Blackburn was sent to hospital with serious injuries after three men viciously attacked him on Aug 15.
“This is happening more in St John's because it’s growing so fast,” she says. “With an economic boom comes more drugs, more violence, more crime. This gaybashing literally rocked our LGBT community. At the same time, there was a sad backlash of victim blaming.”
McCreath says she’s heard a lot of transphobic comments since announcing her candidacy, but she won’t let them discourage her.
“I’m sure there are some people who will dismiss me because they are ignorant or phobic about LGBT issues, but I think bringing this type of diversity to a local election could really benefit me,” she says. “I hope that more people look at my presence in this election as a positive, that they look beyond sex and gender and vote for whoever will move this city in the right direction.”
Besides being a political and human rights activist, McCreath is also an accomplished marathon runner. She has taken part in 30 marathons, including the Boston Marathon twice and the Newfoundland provincial championship marathon five times.
Her campaign will also focus on improving access to affordable housing, public transit, preserving the province's fresh lakes, ponds and green spaces, and looking for ways to make government more transparent and accountable.
St John's goes to the polls Sept 24. More information on McCreath is available on her blog, jennifermccreath.blogspot.ca, and on her campaign site, votejennifer.info.