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Prevent gaybashings with more police presence: Bickerton

Gay NPA candidate runs for council in Vancouver

Gay council candidate Sean Bickerton says he's "very well supported" by his NPA caucus. Credit: Courtesy of Sean Bickerton

Sean Bickerton says a greater police presence is needed in the Davie Village to protect members of the community during peak gaybashing hours.

The proposal is one of several the gay Non-Partisan Association (NPA) candidate would prioritize if he wins a seat in his second bid for election to Vancouver’s city council. He first ran unsuccessfully in 2008.

He says homophobic violence continues to be an issue in the city, which Statistics Canada numbers show is tied for hate-crime capital of Canada.

Bickerton was gaybashed by two off-duty bouncers in the Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot on Davie St 28 years ago. He says he survived only because a good Samaritan intervened. “My head was really badly concussed. Three years ago I stood on that spot and asked people to vote for me.”

He says he finds it “heartbreaking” that Vancouver is now tied for gaybashing capital of Canada.

“Nothing has been done,” he says, “not even an attempt.”

If elected, Bickerton says he would launch targeted programs to make the streets safer for everyone, starting with more police in the Village to preempt gaybashings. “This is my big push,” he says, “a greater focus on community policing in the Village, with increased foot and bike patrols at peak times.”

He would also launch separate programs, such as Share the Road, to make the streets of Vancouver safer for pedestrians, cyclists and cars, and a Responsible Rider program geared to cyclists — specific programs targeted to address specific areas that are still unsafe on Vancouver’s streets, he says. “If I could accomplish that much, I’d be thrilled.”

Asked how much support he expects from his NPA caucus, Bickerton says, “I think I have total support.”

These policies were developed through the party’s policy process, he says, though he concedes they’re “not specifically” discussed in the NPA platform.

“The difference between the NPA and other parties — we create our own platforms as candidates,” he says. “I’m very well supported by my team.”

He says he joined the NPA after writing to every city councillor for help with a sanitization issue in the International Village in 2008 and getting no reply — except from then-NPA councillor BC Lee. Bickerton says he eventually solved the waste disposal problem with the help of his strata, the developers and the supermarket next door. Lee’s presence helped give him the leverage he needed to convince everyone to comply.

“He showed up. And I’m a loyal person,” Bickerton says.

When the NPA turned around and courted him, Bickerton agreed to run on their slate. “We have a tradition of independent councillors who are strong and represent different walks of life and different perspectives,” he maintains.

He says he thinks Vancouver would be better off with more balance on council, rather than a council dominated by one party. The NPA holds just one seat on council right now, won by mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton in the last election that saw Vision Vancouver win decisively.

If elected, Bickerton would also like to see more lobbying for effective anti-bullying policies in schools. The city needs to reach past its boundaries into other parts of the Metro region to spread that message, he adds.

“There’s people doing good work,” he says. “We just need to . . . extend its reach across the entire Lower Mainland. Given the level of violence, it’s certainly called for. You have to educate people. There could be a campaign on SkyTrain for people coming into the city.”

He would also like to see the city designate the Pride, Vaisakhi and Chinese New Year parades as civic events. Instead of offering grants to defray some of their costs, the city would start picking up the events’ full policing and sanitation bills to encourage the work they do as tourism and economic engines.

These parades are the original car-free days, Bickerton says, suggesting the costs could be taken from the city’s Car-Free Day budget, which he says totals $650,000.

“It’s ludicrous. The city’s job is to provide policing and sanitation. These are core services,” he says, adding the city should be rewarding these parades, especially the Pride parade, which draws more than 600,000 people.

He notes the city will be covering the costs for the Grey Cup parade as it did for the Stanley Cup final. He questions why the same can’t be done for the local parades. “It’s a matter of simple fairness and equality.”

Bickerton also wants to deal with the acrimony around residential development in the city, particularly the West End.

He is critical of the Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing (STIR) program, saying the focus on spot zoning with large subsidies has “stirred up a hornets’ nest” of opposition across the city. He says STIR has produced high-end market rentals that cost almost twice as much as the average home per square foot, while funds that go into community amenities to compensate neighbourhoods for additional densities are being eaten up by the subsidies.

Originally from Vancouver, Bickerton moved back to the city from New York in 2007 to marry his partner, Tom.

Active in community issues, Bickerton served two years on the steering committee of the False Creek Residents Association, is co-chair of the Keefer Community Group, chair of Paris Place Strata and served as a member of the membership marketing committee for the Vancouver Board of Trade. He loves Japadogs.