Transgender sex work activist Jamie Lee Hamilton is seeking election to Vancouver’s Board of Parks and Recreation for the third time, this year under the Independent Electoral Alliance banner.
She says a dedicated centre for the queer community is an issue that needs to be moved forward, as does ending the privatization of public space and maintaining park safety.
“I have a passion for our parks and recreation system,” she says. “They play a vital role in our well-being and happiness.”
BC’s queer resource centre, Qmunity, was allotted $7 million in community amenity contributions for a new community centre by city council on Dec 17, 2013. Hamilton says the parks board has the institutional ability to move that project forward. “We need to elect some strong queer candidates to push that.”
And, Hamilton says, despite gains made in the wake of Aaron Webster’s beating death in Stanley Park in 2001, the park remains unsafe for cruisers. She says she goes to the park trails once a month and still hears safety issues being raised.
“These men who use the park are still part of our community,” she stresses. “If we don’t start looking after their safety, there’s going to be another Aaron Webster. It’s only a matter of time.”
She is also concerned about the Vancouver Aquatic Centre. She says some people fear that the land around the centre will be handed to developers. The queer community and all Vancouverites would lose a redeveloped aquatic centre as a public asset if any privatization goes forward on the site, she warns.
Hamilton has run for city council twice, first in 1996, making her the first openly transgender person to run for political office in Canada, she says.
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.
Hamilton has served as a director 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.