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Surrey voters elect first openly lesbian city councillor

Vera LeFranc wants to strengthen social policy and support the vulnerable

“The citizens of Surrey have given me their trust and a mandate to do social good and to be exactly who I am and who I represented myself to be during the election,” says lesbian councillor Vera LeFranc. Credit: Hannah Ackeral

Vera LeFranc made history in BC’s recent municipal election when she became Surrey’s first openly lesbian member of city council Nov 15.

“What it means, aside from being the first of anything, is that there is representation now in the city of Surrey,” LeFranc says of her win. “I certainly understand what it’s like to live as somebody who’s experienced discrimination, as someone who has a lived experience of being treated as less-than.”

LeFranc has lived in Surrey with her partner since 1998. Though she says they have faced their share of homophobia in life, she never questioned whether she should openly be herself in her political run for office. “I’ve always been out, actually. It’s always been part of my life.”

She says she’s proud of Surrey voters for focusing on her policies over her sexuality, adding that her sexuality never became an issue during her campaign.

“I act mainstream, even though I’m not,” she says. “I recognize that even though I am part of a minority, I’m not necessarily a visible minority.”

She says she plans to combine her own lived experiences with years of work in social justice — most recently LeFranc played key roles in developing the Surrey Homelessness & Housing Society, as well as the Surrey Poverty Reduction Plan — to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable in her community, especially those who face visible barriers.

“When our most vulnerable are doing well, our community is doing well,” she says.

For LeFranc, this means addressing poverty, homelessness and addiction in a way that is both meaningful and effective. High on her agenda is finding a piece of property for a new homeless shelter that will provide not only more space, but also more up-to-date facilities that will better serve the homeless.

LeFranc would also like to see social policies strengthened on a municipal level. She is especially excited to continue the implementation of the Social Innovation Policy, which takes into account community development, education, homelessness and housing, and child welfare. By creating a place where social innovation thrives, she says, she believes she can create real and sustainable change and strengthen Surrey as a community.

“Being elected brings with it huge responsibility,” she says, “and the citizens of Surrey have given me their trust and a mandate to do social good and to be exactly who I am and who I represented myself to be during the election. I’m going to work really hard to make sure that happens.”