How will mayoral candidates support the LGBTQ2S+ community?

The Wren spoke with Kamloops Pride and mayoral candidates to understand how city council could expand LGBTQ2S+ community support.
Kamloops LGBTQ2S+ students prepare signs for the 2017 Kamloops Pride Parade
Kamloops LGBTQ2S+ students prepare signs ahead of the 2017 Kamloops Pride Parade. Image courtesy of Kamloops Pride

Though many members of the Kamloops (Tk’emlúps) LGBTQ2S+ community say they are dissatisfied with the level of safety for — and appreciation of — queer identities in the city, this year’s municipal election hasn’t seen candidates express direct support in their platforms.

A survey conducted on behalf of The Wren earlier this month asked 23 LGBTQ2S+ and allied community members to reflect on the municipal election. While the results were varied, they pointed to a need for more initiatives celebrating queer identities and safe spaces to be established in Kamloops.

The Wren spoke with the president of Kamloops Pride, as well as most of the mayoral candidates, to understand how city council could expand its support for LGBTQ2S+ community members. Reid Hamer-Jackson, another mayoral candidate, initially agreed to an interview but did not answer questions.

“There needs to be more focus on queer safety even in schools,” says Ashton O’Brien, president of Kamloops Pride. “I have had people approach me this year to say they are taking their kids out of schools in Kamloops because it is not safe for their kid[s] to be trans there.”

They added the City of Kamloops did not formally support Pride or the Pride parade to the extent it could have, such as flying flags on city property or formally sponsoring Pride.

While some individual candidates, such as Arjun Singh, Sadie Hunter and Ray Dhaliwal, have supported other events organized by Kamloops Pride, they need to do more to understand what it’s like for queer people here so they can work to make the city more inclusive, says O’Brien.

“I haven’t had anybody who is running for mayor reach out and talk. They are more than welcome,” says O’Brien. “Our commitment [at Kamloops Pride] is making sure that we engage people throughout the community. We are trying to teach people, educate and empower the community and business to [support] queer people.”

“There are no candidates with experience in that space — they should build an understanding.” 

Here’s how four mayoral candidates responded to The Wren’s questions related to LGBTQ2S+ safety and belonging. Their answers may have been lightly edited for clarity.

Mayoral candidate Arjun Singh

Do you have any plans that focus on the LGBTQ2S+ community?

More and more they are included. I am very much supportive of the LGBTQ2S+ community. I voted for the Pride crosswalk. It was really amazing to see the praise we had when it started a few years ago. I definitely want to support any initiative or any project that would help us become more diverse and inclusive. I think that there are more people within that community that are more marginalized than others. Trans folks, young kids who are questioning their gender identity and having those conversations. We have to support those individuals to do what they think is right for themselves, not stigmatize or discriminate against them on that basis. 

Are there more projects or initiatives that you are part of that prevent discrimination and create safe spaces for queer folks?

We hired in city hall an equity, diversity and inclusion coordinator, a person that will help us understand some of the blind spots. We want people of the LGBTQ2S+ community to feel part of the community. Unconscious biases are things you don’t even see that are causing issues for folks, so our equity, diversity and inclusion coordinator will help us understand better where those gaps might be. The commitment is definitely there. 

Mayoral candidate Sadie Hunter 

Do you have any plans that focus on the LGBTQ2S+ community?

I don’t have anything specific for that community. In my mind, I prefer if those communities have recommendations or something that they would like to work together on. I am more than open to that kind of thing. I don’t feel right saying this is what we are going to do and kind of being the leader and telling somebody this is the thing to do together.

Are there more projects or initiatives that you are part of that prevent discrimination and create safe spaces for queer folks?

One of my main focuses, when I ran for council in 2018 and for the last four years, was on implementing the city’s accessibility and inclusion plan. The plan highlights a lot of ways to make the city more accessible in terms of the built environment but also more inclusive and equitable in terms of program delivery, hiring practices and more. Even designing programs and spaces is more accessible — some of the new playgrounds we are getting like the one in Riverside Park are accessible.

One of the other outcomes of having that plan implemented is the hiring of the city’s first equity, diversity and inclusion coordinator who will work on all the city departments to make recommendations in terms of interdepartmental processes and communications that will help make our city more inclusive. To me, that is a very important step forward in creating a safe space for everyone. 

Mayoral candidate Dieter Dudy

Do you have any plans that focus on the LGBTQ2S++ community?

I have always been supportive; in fact, my sister-in-law happens to be part of the community. To me, it’s a no-brainer, I don’t care what someone’s gender is — I refer to people as people, and it should be treated that way. We are very inclusive, as we should be. I am surprised that we are still having to have this battle. It shouldn’t be the case and we should be treating each other as we would want to be treated ourselves. 

Are there more projects or initiatives that you are part of that prevent discrimination and create safe spaces for queer folks?

I don’t know, I am not involved in any particular project. I just feel that I have always embraced inclusivity. I don’t judge a person by their sex or their sexual preferences. A person is a person to me. We are all the same. 

Mayoral candidate Ray Dhaliwal

Do you have any plans that focus on the LGBTQ2S+ community?

I was one of the first co-sponsors of the first Pride Parade in downtown Kamloops. We do hire as well; I am all about inclusivity. I am president of the Multicultural Society. We have quite a few members as well and we support them in any way we can. 

Are there more projects or initiatives that you are part of that prevent discrimination and create safe spaces for queer folks?

Well, not just for queer folks. As I said, I am president of the Multicultural Society. We are about inclusion for everybody, but it hasn’t come up as much in our group. We include anyone when we have functions. We do Canada Day every year, so it has never been an issue to involve anyone from the LGBTQ2S+ community and it never stopped us from engaging them and making them part of our group. 

General voting day in Kamloops takes place on Oct. 15, 2022, from 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. For more information, visit The Wren’s voting guide or the City of Kamloops website at kamloops.ca.

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