The municipal election is one week away, and it is important to get out and vote because this year citizens will be electing their municipal representatives to four-year terms. This change came about without any consultation and whether this is in the best interests of the public at the local level is yet to be decided.
Just a few days ago, Dara Parker, the executive director of the gay and lesbian centre Qmunity, wrote a commentary. Parker cited three key reasons why queer citizens should vote.
She claimed that 75 percent of queer students did not feel safe in schools and that 45 percent of transgender students have attempted suicide. Parker went on to cite three initiatives brought forward by the majority Vision party.
The Vision policies announced but not yet implemented and cited by Parker are for more inclusive washrooms and changing facilities at park board facilities and a new school board policy which will make schools safer for queer and trans students.
Parker did not make mention of the number one election issue in Vancouver, which is the lack of housing affordability and increasing homelessness in our city. This issue very much affects our gay and lesbian seniors and queer youth alike.
It is estimated that at least 50 percent of street youth hail from the LGBTQ community and under Vision’s mandate homelessness has significantly increased. Vision has not provided any housing options for queer youth, and in fact placing gay and lesbian youth in temporary low-barrier shelters, which are filled with untreated mentally ill people, predators, and criminals, makes our queer youth very vulnerable to predators, abuse, and violence. Queer youth clearly feel unsafe in these shelters and that is why youth are seen in increasing numbers living on the street, particularly in the Davie gay village area. Is it any wonder why our queer youth in increasing numbers with no job prospects and inadequate housing are attempting suicide?
Gay and lesbian seniors in the West End community in increasing numbers are victims of renovictions. Vision’s response has been to collaborate with a developer to build the STIR housing project at Comox and Broughton. The developer had waived by the city millions of dollars in development cost levies but sadly for seniors and to add insult to injury they can’t afford the STIR studio units which are rented at slightly over $1,400 a month. Who got the deal here? It certainly was not queer seniors who are in desperate need of safe, affordable housing.
While it is one thing for Parker to put forth three Vision initiatives as to why queer people should vote, I would suggest, yes, it is very important for queer people to vote but mainly because we have not been well served by Vision especially on the affordable housing front. Moreover, Vision’s homeless strategy has been a dismal and complete failure for our queer youth.
Oh yes, and the third initiative that Parker champions as why queer citizens should vote involves the matter of Vision promising her $10 million toward building a new Qmunity centre. Is it any wonder why she conveniently ignores the most damming aspect of the Vision administration which is their failure on the affordable housing and homelessness front?
Clearly lack of affordable housing and increasing homelessness is the most important and pressing issue for LGBT community members in this election, and Parker should be ashamed for completely erasing this fact.