Thursday, October 11, 2007


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC

Where Were The Minority Voices?

This evening I took in the last 30 minutes of the COPE Talkin Politics at the Rhizome Cafe. On the panel were former Councillor, Ellen Woodsworth, MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers, Sue Hammel, Park Commissioner, Loretta Woodcock and School Board Trustee, Sharon Gregson.

The evening was billed as an event to encourage more women to enter politics.

Because I arrived quite late, I didn't hear much of the discussion, however, the comments made centered on ways to get more women interested in running.

Unfortunately, this evening had a small turn-out and I counted only two men in the audience.

While, women tend to stay away from politics, after all, it is quite the bloodsport and I'm not certain women want to play the political game the way men do. Actually it becomes a big turn off for women, many who have more important tasks to do, such as taking care of their children and sometimes being the sole bread-winner if they happen to be a single parent, makes political life more daunting.

COPE, has lots of work to do if it is to have any significance in next year's municipal election. I really felt sad that the turn-out was so small.

Former Park Board Chair, Laura McDiarmid attended with me and both of us were introduced by Ms Woodsworth. I really hoped that I would see racially diverse females in attendance and from a variety of political perspectives, but tonight was not the night.

Perhaps if the COPE organizers had considered, inviting someone to be part of the panel, speaking from a minority perspective and background, this would have enhanced the evening.

All the panelists were Caucasian women and this was once again, concerning. I would have loved to have heard from a female Aboriginal Chief or Band Councillor.

If we really want to hear the difficulties women face when considering entering politics, I would say that we need to start including those minority voices who have even more political obstacles to overcome than Caucasian women.

If the goal is to increase female participation in politics, perhaps less partisan meetings might also assist in this regard. While it's vitally important that we work to ensure women comprise 50% of our elected representatives, however, of these 50 percent I want to see at least half coming from a visible minority background.

Those of us who see political public life as an honorable profession must come together and work diligently across partisan party lines to further our goals of gender and racial diversity.

We must strive to reduce the influence of the old boys club and work smarter to realize the rise of the 50-50 club.

Jamie Lee Hamilton