Edmonton Capital Club Survey
Full city-wide responses to the Edmonton Capital Club survey are here.
Below are my complete answers for ease of reference.
Q1: What have you done in the past to support sexual
and gender minorities within your community?
My work with La Leche League comes immediately to mind. This is a breastfeeding/chestfeeding support organization. My own group has been instrumental in changing the language we use around breastfeeding/chestfeeding and parenting. For example, we use gender neutral language and at the beginning of our meetings we acknowledge that we are on Treaty 6 land and introduce ourselves, our pronouns and that inclusive language makes spaces safer for all of us. We’ve also worked hard to be very welcoming of all families, meeting people where they are at. We often have regular, ongoing attendees who are a part of
the LGBTQ community.
Nationally, LLLC has started to be more inclusive. There was a lot of conflict within the organization over the last few years, but finally after a courageous stand by a transgender parent, and vocal support from many of us within the organization, we were successful in supporting him in becoming our first transgender Leader. Since this spring, he is now taking on a leadership role in the organization supporting other Leaders.
I became the chair of La Leche League Canada in January of this year. Since then, our board has focused quite intensively on opening up communication in the organization and creating space for more diverse voices to have influence on decision making. We have created a committee focused on inclusion and diversity as well as engaged internally in deeper discussions about the language we use in meetings and online in order to become a more accessible and welcoming organization. There is still a lot of work to do on this issue in LLLC, but we now have a board that is very focused on creating this change.
Today, I am sending a formal letter from the LLLC Board to La Leche League International (LLLI) Board in response to some transphobic language we have witnessed internally. We have a responsibility to stand up against exclusion and discrimination.
Q2: Tell us about a significant issue impacting your local LGBTQ
community. How will you work to address this issue?
There are many. The one that strikes me as urgent in our City, and in Ward 8 in particular, is the issue of homeless youth. A disproportionate part of that population is LGBTQ, often facing other levels of marginalization and discrimination in addition to the challenges caused by homelessness.
What would I do about? That is complicated. First of all, I think it’s really important to connect with the impacted communities and learn from them both what they need, but also to learn about their capacity. There is so much untapped knowledge, and talent in our communities and I believe the solutions are rooted there. It’s important to build relationships with the organizations serving vulnerable youth including iHuman Youth Services, Old Strathcona Youth Society, Youth Empowerment Support Services and others.
A big part of what I want to do as a City Councillor is to work directly with people impacted by decisions (or the lack thereof) and with the organizations doing the front line work. Where appropriate, I want to work cross-jurisdictionally (school boards, provincial government) to build the concrete programs and services that will help, and put in the place the funding needed to make it happen. This will require the City to take leadership on these issues, even if other jurisdictions also need to be brought into the conversation. The knowledge and capacity is there to build the best solutions possible. Creating connections where they may not yet exist, building and strengthening those that do, raising the profile of the issues, working with other decision makers to build the case and championing the cause are all required to address these complex issues. I know there is incredible work being done in our communities, my role would be to support this work both publicly and administratively. I have a responsibility to reach out and cultivate these relationships, to learn as much as I can about how best to address these complex challenges, to check my understanding and to take concrete actions rooted in the communities they come out of.
I’m very aware that our Council and administration are not particularly diverse. In order to really make the best decisions, we need to do a much better job of bringing forward all communities into these conversations. I was a part of Opening the Potential, which was an important step in supporting women running for public office, but we need a more intersectional approach to addressing this lack of representative voices at the decision making tables in our city.
Q3: 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?
I do! I’ve spent the last two years as community co-chair for the City’s Advisory Committee for the Council Initiative on Public Engagement. One of our key priorities for the Initiative and for the Community Leadership working group was to seek out connections with the many diverse communities and networks in our city and learn from the lived experiences of our neighbours. Our goal is to do a much better job of connecting with all citizens, learning from them and supporting their capacity to shape our city, in order to make better decisions for all of us. The first step in bringing forward the voices that tend to be underrepresented is to identify them.
But that is not enough. We need to also raise the profile of these voices and support their capacity in many different ways. An LGBTQ advisory committee would be one important way to do this.
Q4: 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?
That’s a really important question. The City’s Gender-based Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Initiative acknowledges that the most severe of all hate crimes are those targeting the LGBTQ community.
One of the things I want to do as a City Councillor is to include Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+) reviews on all decisions. The City is starting to look at this but we need to implement it in a much broader way. GBA+ principles, look not only at
gender, but also at the experiences of other populations that are not typically reflected in the decision-making processes. For example, public safety conversations need to look at how we design our streets, transit systems, parks, and public buildings in a much broader way that takes into account different perspectives and lived experience. We may not be able to predict people's behaviour but we can, and need to, design for safer streets and public spaces for everyone. The way we design our public spaces and communities has a direct impact on how safe they are.
We also need to work with our police services on sensitivity/diversity training. Beyond that, we need to be much more intentional about increasing diversity in recruitment, and also retention, in our police force. There is a lot of work to do to
repair relationships between our police and the communities they are supposed to serve. Current conversations around racism and reporting a sexual assault tell me we need to do intensive, intentional work both to prevent hate crimes but also to
make sure that when people do report crimes they are being treated appropriately and taken seriously. Specific education for and within the criminal justice system about what constitutes a hate crime as well as broader education that integrates
LGBTQ experiences into criminal justice education are also needed.
There are also conversations we need to be having in our schools and in our communities to break down silos. We need to intentionally bring together groups who don’t usually come together in a way that is also safe and supportive. We need
to build a stronger social fabric, where we are more likely to look out for one another and less likely to fall back on misunderstanding or biases. A Councillor has the opportunity to take the initiative and help build those bridges and create those
spaces. Too often it falls to marginalized communities to take on this work, but Councillors are in a privileged position and can take leadership to foster a safer, more welcoming and inclusive community.