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”.