As a long-time advocate of the Downtown Eastside, I am announcing my intention to seek election to the Vancouver park board on November 19.
Park board has been an interest of mine for quite some time, as it involves parks and public spaces, arts programming, recreation, cultural activities, seniors and youth issues, and important emerging social issues.
My community and civic involvement includes being a steering member for the Downtown Eastside Arts in Parks Committee and programme coordinator for A-STEP, an aboriginal youth arts program funded by the McCreary Centre Society. I also sit on the board of the two-spirited Greater Vancouver Native Cultural Society as an esteemed elder within the College of Elders. The GVNCS formed in 1978.
A number of park board issues are on my radar and involve many exciting, challenging, and concerning issues for Vancouver citizens.
Most concerning are the drastic cuts park board ($5.3 million) has made in the last three years. These cuts included eliminating the children’s farmyard and petting zoo in Stanley Park, introducing user fees for six-year-olds when previously there were none, cutting the budget by 50 percent for children’s summer camp programming and voting against a plebiscite denying citizens a democratic vote regarding whales in captivity. This is why I am seeking a seat on the Vancouver board of parks and recreation.
With the city densifying, I believe that our public spaces, parks, and community centres are vitally important to our well-being and happiness. It is crucial to ensure that appropriate resources are evenly distributed to every neighborhood for the enjoyment of our citizens. With ongoing privatization in our parks, the public has less and less access to our public parks. We must keep our parks public.
A long-standing issue which the park board needs to address is the autonomy and independence of the park board. The park board was created in 1890 and is the only elected board of its kind in Canada. Yet the board lacks the ability of separate powers of taxation and borrowing, and it must have full control over its public assets.
Rampant homelessness and drug use are long-standing concerns in this city. We see rising homelessness in Stanley Park and other parks, and we must immediately address these matters. Moreover, there is a significant number of homeless youth, including at-risk youth, without adequate supports. I want to ensure that all governing bodies are working responsibly and co-operatively in a less partisan manner to find smart compassionate solutions which address these hardships, inequities, and challenges facing far too many younger citizens.
Following in the footsteps of my late mother, Alice Hamilton, a well-respected leader for aboriginal people in Canada and a cofounder in the early 1950s of the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre, I pledge to tirelessly work to ensure fairness and justice for all of our citizens.
On November 19, I ask for your support to create much-needed positive change at the park board.
Jamie Lee Hamilton is an Independent Democratic Electoral Alliance candidate for the Vancouver park board.