City of Vancouver to pay for councillor Tim Stevenson's trip to Sochi Olympics

Vancouver city council has unanimously voted to send city councillor Tim Stevenson to the Sochi Olympics next year to advocate for LGBT rights with the International Olympic Committee.

Council approved a motion brought forward by Mayor Gregor Robertson to send the Vision Vancouver councillor as the former host city’s representative.

Stevenson, who is gay, plans to meet with IOC officials to urge them to include a non-discrimination clause for LGBTQ people in its charter. He will also advocate for cities to include a Pride House in future bids to host Olympic games.

An amendment to the motion introduced by Green councillor Adriane Carr and approved by council will see the city cover the cost of Stevenson’s expenses, while a fund consisting of community contributions will pay for two other team members to travel to Russia.

“This is an incredibly important initiative,” said Carr. “We pride ourselves in Vancouver in being an embracive city, a city that isn’t discriminatory, that lauds diversity, and inclusiveness, and I think that this initiative that would put Vancouver on the forefront globally of fighting for those same things is really important.”

The move follows criticism from NPA councillor George Affleck around private donations from developer Peter Wall and real-estate marketer Bob Rennie, who have each offered to contribute $25,000 for the trip.

Mayor Gregor Robertson said he was “extremely frustrated” at the debate around the funding of the trip.

“Transparency was built into this initiative from the beginning,” he said. “For there to be an unfounded perception of conflict whipped up by a trashy tabloid and Councillor Affleck’s twisted political agenda is unbelievably unfortunate, and it is now behind us. And we need to move on and deal with the human rights issue up front."

Affleck called Robertson's comment "shocking" and political in itself. 

"It's important for me to ask tough questions—I think it's my job to address issues when there are issues, and it's not being political, it's just doing my job," Affleck said in a phone interview. 

He said he will be looking for a report on Stevenson's expenses when the councillor returns from Russia. He added he agrees the councillor's initiative is important.

"Since the moment Councillor Stevenson told me about it, I thought that is a great idea, and it's an important one to do, and I commended him. And it's brave—he's taking a risk, and I have to applaud that."

Before debating the motion, council heard from several speakers who expressed their support for the initiative.

“This motion today faces a history that is still in the making, but by its example will help to ensure that pains experienced by LGBTQ people in Russia and elsewhere around the world, LGBTQ athletes, and LGBTQ children aspiring to be included athletes, need not be lived again,” said Dean Malone, the co-chair of Vancouver’s LGBTQ advisory committee.

“We can’t change Sochi, but we can work to make sure it is not repeated.”

Amendments added to today’s motion call for the City of Vancouver to provide “a modest budget” to cover Stevenson’s expenses in Sochi and for the city to oversee a fund generated by community contributions to support other aspects of the initiative.

The approved motion also calls for the project to be seen as part of “an ongoing initiative for the City of Vancouver to advocate for human rights with the IOC, with staff to report back on other opportunities available”.

Comments (17) Add New Comment
Alan Layton
This is just wrong. Robertson is the mayor and should be going to Sochi for the handing over ceremony. He was the face of Olympics for Vancouver and I'm sure he's more than capable of lobbying the IOC as a side issue. There's no need to send Stevenson as our representative. The entire issue has gotten way out of hand and I hate seeing the Olympics used for political purposes...such as Gregor making sure he keeps the powerful LBTQ vote next election.
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stuart
This is just another political ploy by the Vision-less Business Party to support and condone the Sochi rich person's private party.
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stuart
We, the taxpayers, are paying for this holiday trip ... not "the city of Vancouver".
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John
This is totally wrong. The Vancouver tax payer is now coughing up the money for political interest during a sporting event? Another brutal move by a brutal mayor.
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Fustrated 'couverite
What's your freaking problem Mayor Robertson?! Seriously! Why are you always disregarding public opinion?
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Vancouver Watcher
What a waste of time and money. Does anyone with half a brain think that Putin and his thuggish followers will even care what Vancouver thinks? Especially when expressed by a lightweight like Stevenson.
Vision Vancouver is in trouble with the voters and they are trying to pander to any group that they can. The gay community is a group that is being pandered to incessantly. It is too bad that the gay community have such a weak member of council to supposedly "represent" them. This is just another attempt to get a feature story in Xrta West. Fortunately, the gay community knows when it is being used and will not respond to such pandering.
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casper
Do you really have to waste our money on this? He might be coming home in body bag and the Russian mafia aren't the kind of people who you want to antagonize.
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RUK
@John

This is exactly the right time to be making political statements. Games have the world's media available to them. If you have something to say, you can say it and be heard. It's not what the games are for, of course, so there is the risk of annoying people - but not threatening, hurting, nor even inconveniencing them (no one watches the games to see what the mayors had to announce).

Alan,
Of course there is some political advantage to this. I would be surprised if you would advocate a system whereby politicians strove to do unadvantageous things. If you mean it is not sincere, that it is pandering, well I guess that's a possibility but Tim Stevenson strikes me as a good representative for Vancouver and there's no reason to think he is incapable of arguing his points re fairness.
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hmmmm
Trashy tabloid? Seems like the mayor has committed to going to war with the Province. He doesn't seem to care how he is perceived anymore. The funding thing looked bad. He could've handled this better, cuz now Carr and Affleck get the win.
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Grant davis
Save the money to cleanup after the 2014 Canuck riot
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Alan Layton
RUK my point is that other than Russia having their ridiculous law, homosexuality has never been an issue with the Olympics. Lots of gay athletes have competed without discrimination and when was the last time that sexual orientation has been an issue at an Olympics? What Stevenson wants to do is force every Olympic bidder to promise to have a Pride House to promote their agenda. If a city does not agree to their demand then they will not be allowed to bid.

Since Robertson is supposed to be there for the transfer and is the face of the City of Vancouver, why can't he negotiate with the IOC? Is it because he's not gay? I'm sure he's totally capable of it and I just see this as him pandering to the LBQT community.
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marc
The IOC has no interest in morality or human rights, do you think they'd allow the Games to continue if they did? They're not even in the business to promote sport, it's solely about the money.
I know athletes train their whole lives for a chance to compete in the Olympics, I just wish that a massive amount of them refused to attend due to the massive amounts of human rights violations that have occurred in Russia leading up to the Games, and I'm sure they'll be more before it's done.
Taking a stand against these types of abuses should be more important than a chance to stand on a pedestal while wearing a "necklace".
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James G
Congratulations to Councilors Carr and Affleck for turning a farce into a potentially worthwhile endeavour.
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RUK
@Alan and others

Hey man, I agree that the Olympics are supposed to be about the sports - to enjoy the spectacle, competition among the best in the world, and having it every four years so the athletes are under intense pressure to peak for what might be their only shot at everlasting sports glory.

But while the cameras are there, why shouldn't people make political speeches if that is what they want to do? It's a great time to do it, because you get all the attention and little or none of the confrontation/hassle/fear that comes with large-scale protesting.

I don't know that Stevenson intends to "force" having Pride Houses around but what's the harm in asking, what's the problem with making the moral and business case for it? Maybe he'll be persuasive, and maybe he won't. Let him try, why not.

Finally, I addressed the pandering. If it is votemongering, well, so what? The electorate might be impressed and the electorate might be turned off. The ballot will tell. Meanwhile, Stevenson on behalf of the Vancouver govt is making, we anticipate, some sort of proposal to benefit a minority group.

It's all good, to me. It's not gonna affect my enjoyment of speed skating or that wacky long jump or any of that. Would it put you off from watching?
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Alan Layton
Good point about using the Olympics for political agendas RUK. Let's face it, there are no other ways to get a message across to people around the world other than the Olympics. Lol. I hope someone invents some sort of electronic system so that people can connect to others in other countries and maybe some sort of social media platform would be helpful as well. I guess we'll have to just keep dreaming of a day like that and in the meantime try to use a sporting event to get the word out there.
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Travis L
I am 100% for gay rights, and surely there needs to be a representative there.
But, on our dime. This is absolutely insulting. $100,000 or OUR money, why don't we have a say in this? You clearly have other resources to fund this. and 100k!!! wtf??
Tim should fund his own trip, This is a complete WASTE of our money, also a waste of your time, do you really think a couple sending a couple Canadians is gonna shake up the Russian Government ? There is a very long list of places this money is BADLY needed in our OWN streets.
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Alan Layton
RUK- "I don't know that Stevenson intends to "force" having Pride Houses around but what's the harm in asking, what's the problem with making the moral and business case for it? Maybe he'll be persuasive, and maybe he won't. Let him try, why not."

That's true, but why can't the very successful Mayor of the previous city also ask? Perhaps Stevenson can pay his own way over there to do that, instead of taking Robertson place for the event?

And in case you didn't read, he wants a promise to build a Pride House as part of the bidding process for future Olympics. So if a city isn't willing to build one then they can't bid on the Olympics.
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