A various slate of First Nations and Métis candidates is running in Vancouver’s upcoming election, each hoping to advance reconciliation and quality of life for all.
Voters will hit the polls on October 15 to elect their next mayor, council and park board commissioners, and Indigenous people have tossed their rats within the ring for each race.
Leona Brown, an independent candidate, is hoping to take the highest job from incumbent Mayor Kennedy Stewart. She told Global News she initially ran as a approach to encourage Indigenous people to vote, but her campaign has shifted into something more.
“ all of the political stuff that’s happening now, we actually need to have Indigenous people on the table,” Brown said Wednesday.
“It’s not enough to only say it is a city of reconciliation.”
If elected, she said one in every of her priorities could be to restructure and decolonize the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) with an infusion of mental health supports for the unhoused in downtown Vancouver.
Brown is a proud Gitxsan and Nisga’a girl. She said she hopes to quell among the mistrust that exists between Indigenous Peoples and municipal governments.
“You’ve gotten to vote as a way to have reconciliation occur on this city,” she explained.
“We’ve already been assimilated in society and made to feel like whatever now we have to complain about shouldn’t be going to be heard and no person cares. Voting is the approach to say, ‘I care.’”
It’s a mission that resonates with Non-Partisan Association (NPA) Vancouver council candidate Cinnamon Bhayani, a Métis woman, recent law school graduate, and current regulatory compliance officer with the Department of Finance.
If elected, Bhayani said she desires to be a “bridge” between city council and Indigenous constituents to make civic participation in a colonial system less intimidating for all.
“I can assist guide them through the method in the event that they want to come back speak at city hall, or they only want to come back watch — they’ll know there’s someone like-minded inside city hall.”
Bhayani said she would love to see Vancouver construct a wellness and healing centre where each Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can congregate, and as a councillor, would work to secure the lands and funding for it.
If elected, COPE council candidates Tanya Webking and Breen Ouellette said they might support incumbent Jean Swanson’s proposed “mansion tax,” together with emptiness control measures and protection for renters through tenants’ unions.
“We absolutely can’t be afraid to tax billionaires,” said Webking, a Dene-German woman from Tlicho Nation in Yellowknife.
“The center-income earners cannot bear that weight and now we have millionaires and billionaires making their living on unceded and stolen lands. It’s time for somewhat reconciliation.”
Webking, a housing and anti-poverty activist and Indigenous health promotion case manager at AIDS Vancouver, has worked within the Downtown Eastside for a long time.
She called for a direct secure supply technique to combat the toxic drug crisis, together with interim measures to present the unhoused somewhere to sleep because the rainy season approaches.
“There are some easy, quick solutions around tiny homes and tent communities while we work on our long-term solutions. We just need some immediate needs like washrooms and showers and laundry and support employees.”
Ouellette, a Métis lawyer, father and activist, said he was motivated to run for city council by the disproportionate representation of Indigenous children in foster care — a system that is thought to discriminate against, and traumatize, Indigenous families.
“We’re feeling from our communities in the town that folks need to hear our voices, they need to see us in elected roles. We’ll bring a lived perspective of what’s happened to us,” he told Global News.
Ouellette assisted family and survivor witnesses as a lawyer for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. If elected, he said one in every of his priorities could be creating an independent representative for Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people for Vancouver, each to observe the town’s progress in implementing the inquiry’s Calls for Justice, and to plot a plan to enhance quality of life for those underrepresented residents.
Matthew Norris, president of the Urban Native Youth Association, is running as a council candidate for OneCity Vancouver. The Lac La Ronge First Nation citizen said representation will improve the services most frequently access by Indigenous Peoples.
“We’ve seen a city that has inequities baked into it, inside our housing supply, inside our health-care system, inside our justice system, inside our instructional organizations,” Norris explained.
“While you’re missing that have and that voice, you’re not going to create policy that’s effective or efficient in responding to the needs of that community.”
Norris, who’s working on a PhD focused on the implementation of international Indigenous rights frameworks, said he wants Indigenous cultures and languages to be seamlessly woven into the material of more Vancouver neighbourhoods.
If elected, he would push mayor and council to green-light Indigenous-led projects that provide inexpensive places to live and open community spaces grounded in local First Nations’ values.
“We’re seeing among the most groundbreaking projects in Sen̓áḵw, in Jericho Lands, within the Heather Lands project … we shouldn’t be delaying these projects we should always support them,” Norris explained.
“We want a city council that has the experience and understanding about tips on how to do this work in partnership with the Indigenous nations and in partnership with the Indigenous community as well.”
There are two First Nations people running to grow to be commissioners on the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation: COPE’s Ukws Kots’a Chris Livingstone and OneCity’s Tiyaltelut Kristen Rivers.
Rivers didn’t reply to a request for comment by deadline. Livingstone, of the Nisga’a Nation, said parks are very essential to him because he has slept in them himself.
“I’ve got loads of ideas about tips on how to help people who find themselves sleeping out within the streets or within the parks, and I feel on the park board we’re at a level where we are able to actually help the community,” he said in an interview.
“For me, it’s about community and the way we connect with the land that we live to tell the tale.”
In an expensive city like Vancouver, he added, parks are “really the one escape.”
Livingstone, who has worked within the Downtown Eastside for about 20 years, is a peer navigator for the Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council, and a member of the VPD’s Indigenous Advisory Community Motion Team.