City council candidate Rob McDowell says safety, an aging LGBT population, a community centre and community consultation are the queer issues the next Vancouver municipal government needs to address.
“It’s still a community that’s vulnerable in this city,” notes McDowell, who is running on the Non-Partisan Association (NPA) slate. “You still see gaybashings. We don’t have the same freedoms and liberties others do.”
McDowell says it’s important to ensure that the new community centre gets a space to anchor its activities. Qmunity was allotted $7 million by the city for a new multipurpose community centre in Vancouver in December 2013.
He says work also needs to be done to ensure aging community members are not forced back into the closet to be able to access the care they need. “We’re getting into the tsunami where there’s an increasing number of them,” he says. “We have to make sure they’re engaged and can retain the freedoms they’ve won.”
McDowell has been a friend of current NPA Councillor George Affleck since Expo 86, a friendship that has continued through his involvement in Affleck’s run for council in 2011 and with the NPA caucus for the past three years.
A former Canadian diplomat who worked in Vietnam and China, McDowell has been back in Vancouver since 2000, establishing an international project-management business. He has also worked with the BC Centre for Disease Control, setting up HIV/STI clinics in Vietnam, and as the deputy regional director for the Canada South East Asia Regional HIV/AIDS Program. That work, he says, would help him as a councillor as it gave him the opportunity to bring together diverse stakeholder groups to discuss issues.
He says there has not been enough community consultation under the current city government, a situation that he says must change. “There’s a big appetite for change, a need for engagement and consultation. I think that’s where my diplomacy and mediation skills will come in.”
McDowell worked for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympics, managing protocol operations at the opening, closing and nightly medal ceremonies.
Currently, he is operations manager for Academics without Borders Canada and was recently appointed to the BC Health Professions Review Board. He has volunteered on the boards of a number of non-profit organizations, including the Scotiabank Dance Centre, the Vancouver International Comedy Festival and the Radical System Arts Society. McDowell, who has a degree from the University of Victoria and completed post-graduate studies at Vancouver’s Capilano University, lives with his partner in Yaletown, where he has been involved in community and development issues for the past 14 years.