The Coalition of Progressive Electors will have three indigenous women on the ballot for this year’s municipal election, a move that council candidate Audrey Siegl says is “making history”.
At a news conference at Crab Park in the Downtown Eastside today (October 10), Siegl and COPE school board candidate Diana Day said some of the issues they hope to tackle as municipal politicians include affordable housing and anti-racism initiatives in schools.
“What matters to me most, what my campaign is based on, is homes now,” said Siegl. “Safe, clean, affordable homes for all.”
Siegl was involved with the tent city in Oppenheimer Park aimed at drawing attention to housing conditions. She also worked with Musqueam community members to protect a Marpole Midden site from development and was an organizer with the Idle No More movement.
Day, who has been involved with Vancouver parent advisory councils since 2002, said she’d like to see an anti-bullying component incorporated into the school curriculum for students of all ages.
“It’s really important we teach parents, students, staff all about anti-racism and standing up for one another,” she said.
A third female indigenous candidate, Cease Wyss, is running for park board with COPE. Wyss is an ethnobotanist, artist, and food security activist who has worked with the Vancouver park board as a programmer, and she has also served on the Vancouver Food Policy Council.
Some of the other issues that will be included in the candidates’ campaigns include violence against aboriginal women.
“This has affected all the Native women that I know,” Siegl said.
“This is a very personal issue that touches my heart, because it’s changed my life, and it’s made me strong, watching the women around me be strong, to carry on and to keep moving forward.”
Day indicated she will also advocate for cultural awareness to be included in the school curriculum.
“We’re surrounded by history, we’re surrounded by community members who are happy to carry the history,” she said.
“We need to be able to have an opportunity to have these teachings brought in to the school system, to have not only the students, but also the parents and also the staff know about our people, who we are, what our culture is, and also our own children as well. Some of our children are born and raised in the urban environment now and don’t have connection to their community.”
As part of COPE’s new equity policy, it reserved a seat on its council, park, and school board slates for an indigenous candidate.
According to the party, the three candidates would be the first indigenous women to hold municipal office in Vancouver if elected.