Sunday, February 24, 2008


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC


Frances Bula, seasoned and award-winning writer at the Vancouver Sun, has taken liberties with me on her blog which I doubt she would have done in the Sun paper edition.
Ms Bula goes on to state in a put-down fashion that I'm a unique figure on the Vancouver scene because in her words, "I'm transsexual, a sex-trade worker advocate and a wild card". Not sure what wild card means though.

I'm happy though that Ms Bula has raised these matters since this provides me an opportunity to share a bit of my history and a few accomplishments which I suppose Ms Bula doesn't recognize because after all, I'm transsexual, been a prostitute and a wild card.

I was introduced from an early age to community politics as a result of my parents, Alice and Ralph. My mother was an Aboriginal Leader who co-founded in 1954, the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Movement. She remained active throughout her life and deeply committed to the struggles of our people. She installed in me and my sister these same values and this has led directly to my own advocacy and activism.

At the young age of 13 years, in 1968, I participated in the Moccasin for Miles march from Vancouver City Hall to Hope, BC. This walk was to raise awareness about the Native peoples struggles and over the three day walk, I was deeply immersed in native life, politics and learning about the struggles of my people. I think this walk directly contributed to my strong spirit and my passion & concern for disadvantaged people.

My family was thrust into poverty at the same time and I dropped out of school at age 15 and found a job working at the westside Broadway and Trafalgar Dairy Queen. I recall those first few weeks of not having any money and walking every morning from the eastside McLean housing project in Strathcona to my work. Every day for two years, I worked that job, and this cemented in me a strong work ethic. Happily, I was able to supply my family with a bit of extra income that was sorely needed since my father, Ralph was terminally sick with Silicosis disease from working in the foundry.

In 1983, I met a man and became involved with the Downtown Eastside Residents Association (DERA). My own parents were founding members in 1976. I became directly involved in planning for the opening of DERA's first housing Co-op. In 1985, I was one of the first tenants to move-in and during this time became heavily involved in Downtown Eastside politics, lobbying for change resulting from low-income people being displaced from their homes as a result of Expo.

In 1985, I took on another challenge, one which I am deeply proud of, which was to complete my high school education and for two years, I attended Capilano College and wrote provincial exams allowing me to take College-level courses. I was deeply moved when I received my diplomas.

In 1988, I worked with the mentally challenged and took on a leadership role, organizing workers at the Richmond Society for Community Living, into our first union and served as our local CUPE President. To this day, I'm proud that this union remains in place for the workers benefit. My father was a Union organizer and because of his circumstances, this is why I feel a seep sense of loyalty toward workers having the right to union-certify.

In the later 80's. our Premier was thinking of quarantining members of the gay community who had HIV/AIDS. I was involved in organizing the Coalition for Responsible Health Legislation which fought off these potential human rights violations.

In 1990, I was quite involved in organizing the Gay Games and served on the executive board of the Gay and Lesbian Centre. I hosted in my home the first Maori to ever play in the games.

During the 90's my political involvement focused on safety concerns for vulnerable sex trade workers. I'm extremely proud of being one of the first voices speaking out on the missing women cases. I believe my activism on this issue forced civic, provincial and federal leaders to tackle and take action on the horrendous violence happening to this community.

Now-a-days, I continue with my civic involvement and use my blog to raise issues on public policy matters.
For the past nine years, I have been guest lecturing at SFU, UBC and Cap College. I gain comfort knowing that I'm contributing in some small way to young academic minds who will be our future Leaders.

These contributions I've set out, I think go well beyond just what I am or what I've done in my past. I think these values are the hallmark of a citizen who deeply cares about social justice and making the City a better place to live. I'm not certain that is "unique" as many others in society share the same concerns and are just as passionate about changing the city and world.

Ms Bula goes on to state that I loathe those in Vision and all those who don't loathe Vision. This is is a total fabrication on the part of Ms Bula, however, I'm not surprised she has taken such liberties.

For the record, I am not a supporter of Vision because a number of their representatives, through treacherous actions, are not worthy of support. Moreover, I haven't as yet seen any political action from them which has benefited Vancouver. In fact, a number of personalities in Vision have worked to divide Vancouver. That said, I don't loathe Councillors Deal or Chow. In fact, I think under the right circumstances, Ms Deal and I may have even been friends.

Back to you Frances.

Oh and thank you for the link!

Jamie Lee Hamilton


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