It’s election season. Every three years (soon to be four), citizens are called upon to vote for our locally elected representatives. I’m talking about our least understood level of government—the Mayor, City Councillors, School Trustees and Parks Board Commissioners.
Yet, virtually no one does.
In the last Vancouver election less than 35 percent of people came out to vote. Which frankly, is depressing. It’s also a clear indication that most people have no idea the impact local government has on our day-to-day lives. While our federal and provincial governments hold portfolios like health, education and environment, the reality is that these issues are most deeply felt at the local level.
Which means, local government can make a big difference for LGBTQ lives.
Consider that our federal and provincial governments have demonstrated minimal interest in improving the health and wellness of queer communities. Despite the fact that 75 percent of LGBTQ students feel unsafe in school, and 45 percent of trans people have attempted suicide, there is little to no investment in improving queer and trans health outcomes.
Luckily, Vancouver is leading the way.
Here are three reasons why local government should matter to LGBTQ communities:
1. This year we applauded the Vancouver School Board as they adopted the most progressive Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation policy that we know of. Anywhere. Ever. This policy is a major step toward making our schools safer and more inclusive, for all youth.
2. We praised the Vancouver Parks Board as they struck the Trans and Gender Variant Working Group to explore and develop recommendations to make our parks facilities as inclusive as possible. This ground-breaking work initiated by the Parks Board is a road map to addressing barriers to health at a local level.
3. And to our great excitement, this past year we witnessed Vancouver City Council make a $10 million commitment to building a new purpose-built facility for QMUNITY. Developing an accessible queer-specific hub for LGBTQ communities is a critical step in anchoring our community in the cityscape, and creating a more diverse, caring and inclusive world.
Local government matters. Which is why every single one of us should learn about the issues, make a plan, and go out and vote. Advance voting starts on November 4. The election is on November 15.
I’ll see you at the polls.
Yours in democracy,