The following is the response I gave to the survey from Edmonton Capital Club. You can view a full list of my survey responses here.
What have you done in the past to support sexual and gender minorities within your community?
I believe in being honest and forthcoming, and not overselling myself. So the straight answer here is: well, not a lot of real, concrete action. Don’t confuse that for a lack of caring. I identify myself as a feminist and believe in equity -- not just equality -- for all people. And certainly much of my previous work with Vision Zero and neighbourhood safety would benefit those that identify as LGBTQ, but it also generally benefits every citizen of Edmonton. My areas of expertise fall more under open and transparent data and governance as well as active transportation initiatives, which has taken up much of my available bandwidth as a volunteer who is also employed full-time.
As a city councillor whose primary role would be to represent these groups, I certainly have aspirations. I think all city facilities should have gender-neutral washrooms and I think there should be a better lens to address a proposed policy’s effect on LGBTQ individuals (further explained below).
But, in the interest of answering the question as asked: in the past, I don’t have a strong record of championing initiatives to support sexual and gender minorities in my community.
Tell us about a significant issue impacting your local LGBTQ community. How will you work to address this issue?
While door-knocking, I spoke with one transgender individual who identified as a woman. She spoke about feeling uncomfortable and unsafe using transit, especially at night. This speaks to an issue I’ve heard from many women on the campaign trail as well.
Transit doesn’t just needs to be safer it needs to be -- and most importantly feel -- safe.
The solutions to this extend to the general societal problems like systemic and casual discrimination, but there exist real and easily-implementable solutions. There was a video posted in the past couple months of an Edmonton transit driver asking an individual who was making hateful and racist statements to leave the bus. We need to enable our transit operators with the training and tools to stand up to individuals promoting hate, and to do it safely.
The simple fact that every bus has an operator who you can know is “on your side” and ready to help and make the transit system a safer place would go a long way. We need to provide transit operators with the necessary training -- and backup where necessary -- to take that stand on the transit system and ensure that all of our buses and LRT vehicles are welcoming places for everyone.
Do you support the creation of a municipal community building LGBTQ advisory committee to advise City Council on emerging priorities, policies, and LGBTQ community needs and concerns?
Yes… and no. I absolutely support the idea here - we need a better system to advise and inform our draft policies and their effect on gender and sexual minorities. I worry about simply establishing a committee and then calling the work complete: will the committee’s input be fully integrated into policy and procedures? Will it just be an afterthought? Does establishing a committee just compartmentalize those opinions and perspectives?
I don’t purport to have all the answers here. I think my opinion on this topic might be less valuable than those of the group that would fill this theoretical committee.
On balance, I endorse this idea. I think my preferred approach might be similar to how our new public engagement principles establish project charters at the get-go and include community stakeholders. In the same way GBA+ provides an additional lens to evaluate how policy and changes affect women, perhaps the best solution is to integrate individuals from the LGBTQ community in project charters and integrate their perspectives into the planning process for projects.
It’s easier to accommodate and enfranchise everyone if projects are built with everyone in mind, rather than accommodations for minority groups being tacked on as an afterthought. We don’t send projects to a “mobility committee” and then decide to add wheelchair ramps to sidewalks as an afterthought. We fully enfranchise wheelchair users in the planning process to ensure our city is accessible. Accessibility for LGBTQ individuals ought to function in the same manner.
In an increasingly polarized political climate, what policies will you put forward to contain and reduce hate crimes and hate incidents in general and specifically for LGBTQ community members?
One can’t legislate away hate. Unfortunately hate is an ugly thing that grows inside people and if allowed to fester and left unchecked can create a toxic divide in our communities.
I appreciate the work Jesse Lipscombe and Don Iveson have done with the Make it Awkward campaign. The first step to eliminating hate is acknowledging that it is hate, and to not ignore it as a society. When groups of people are active in standing up to hate, that is when the tide begins to turn.
In that same light, I think elevating myself on a pedestal and preaching against hate is precisely the opposite of an effective approach here. Mine is not a voice that needs amplifying on this front. I believe the most effective thing I could do in my role as a city councillor to reduce hate is to use my platform to amplify less-heard and minority voices from a wide intersection of perspectives. It’s not about attacking “left vs right” or “liberal vs conservative” - those labels are precisely what increases polarization. It’s about talking about an “us” mentality, and using my platform as a city councillor to help continue the conversation about how to treat people as -- go figure -- people.