Civic election: COPE hopes to add voices of First Nations women to civic office

Audrey Siegl (left) and Diana Day are running for council and school board, respectively, for Vancouver's COPE party.

Three candidates will run for council, school board and park board

VANCOUVER –Three candidates for Vancouver’s COPE party launched their campaigns Friday, all hoping to add the voices of First Nations women to the municipal government.

Audrey Siegl (sχłemtəna:t in her ancestral name), of the Musqueam Nation, will run for council. She lives and works on the Musqueam reserve near the Fraser River and has been active in Idle No More, protection of the Marpole midden and most recently, advocacy on behalf of the campers in Oppenheimer Park.

During the campaign launch at Crab Park, a few steps from the memorial to the missing and murdered First Nations women of the Downtown Eastside, Siegl explained that she was running for council because no other candidates reflected her experience or priorities, which centre on protecting indigenous women, provision of safe and affordable housing and healing the emotional traumas suffered by First Nations, which leads to their overrepresentation in the court system and homeless population.

“Safe, clean, affordable homes are not SROs and shelters,” she said. “I believe I am a good candidate to champion these issues because I’ve been there … I know what it’s like to pinch a penny.”

Health worker Diana Day of the Oneida Nation in southwestern Ontario, who is also a co-chair of the Vancouver school board district PAC, announced her candidacy for school board. Her priorities are the provision of First Nations-focused mini-schools in the district and increased anti-racism education.

Vision Vancouver’s Ken Clement, of Ktunaxa First Nation heritage, has served several terms as a school trustee, but there has never been a First Nations woman elected to civic office in Vancouver.

Cease Wyss, an ethnobotanist and artist from the Squamish Nation, is running for park board, but was not able to attend Friday’s event.

Vision Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer said while it is good to have people from a wide variety of backgrounds stepping up and run for civic office, Vancouver is committed to negotiating with local First Nations on a government-to-government basis on critical land-use issues and having a First Nations councillor would not affect that approach.

“We are in a very awkward space when you have two governments occupying the same piece of land who both have strong, clear and passionate aspirations for economic development and social justice for their people, cultural aspirations, environmental goals . . . It needs to be the whole council and the whole chief and council figuring out how to collaborate together.

Source: The Vancouver Sun