Lesbian city council candidate Ellen Woodsworth has long felt the connection between politics and social justice issues.
And there’s no coincidence in that: she’s the great-niece of JF Woodsworth, the founder of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, the precursor to Canada’s NDP.
Woodsworth is running for a second term on council with the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE). She says there’s still more to do in the areas she committed to tackle three years ago when she first took her seat at city hall.
She lists safety, social housing and transportation issues among her top priorities.
She says the gay community’s profile in the field of policing has been raised by community members sitting on the police chief’s diversity advisory committee, but more needs to be done to protect this city’s queers.
“We’re still being attacked in our own community,” she says. “People have done a very good job but it needs to be strengthened.”
She says the community should have a representative on the city’s police board and is willing to lobby Victoria to make it happen.
Vancouver is one of the few cities in Canada that does not collect statistics on hate crimes committed against specific minorities, such as queers. Vancouver police say that job falls to the provincial Hate Crime Team whose funding was cut by Victoria several years ago.
Woodsworth says council will continue to push Victoria to restore funding to collect those statistics if she gets re-elected. “That’s not difficult to do and it helps address the problem.”
Another thing she’ll prioritize if she gets the nod Nov 19 is strengthening The Centre on Bute St, and helping it find a new, accessible space.
Council should do all it can to help facilitate that, she says. “It’s a place where everybody goes if there’s a new issue emerging. It needs to be accessible.”
She says council is waiting for The Centre to complete a feasibility study on its future plans. “Obviously, we would be working with them to find some existing land or space the city has,” she says.
The Centre could also be combined with social housing and palliative care facilities under one roof, she suggests. Among other needs, it could address those of aging queers. “None of us want to go into a homophobic seniors home,” she says. “This could meet the needs of aging LGBT seniors.”
St Paul’s Hospital, now located one block east of The Centre, currently provides palliative care services but may be relocating to the False Creek Flats east of Science World.
On the proposed move, Woodsworth says the hospital provides much-needed services to the West End, but says the growing population of False Creek, as well as the Eastside, also needs health care facilities. “We have a really good hospital in the West End that does a good job servicing the community needs but we need more services,” she says.
Woodsworth says being a city councillor is more than a full-time job. “I work really long hours, seven days a week,” she says.
She is proudest of facilitating the Stonewall events at city hall. “It was so powerful,” she says. “We brought together pioneers in our community and talked about what we’ve done and what we’re doing. We’re moving toward another level of equality right here in the city.”