Sunday, August 31, 2008


August 31, 2008 - 3:00 pm

By: Jeremy Hainsworth, THE CANADIAN PRESS

VANCOUVER - A transsexual Vancouver prostitution advocate is preparing a human rights complaint against the city's governing party after it rejected her as a parks board candidate nominee.

Jamie Lee Hamilton said candidate interviews with two board members of the Non-Partisan Association party about being a nominee for November's municipal elections focused on her sex life.

B.C.'s Human Rights Code says it is illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of sex or sexual orientation.

Hamilton said the interviews made her very uncomfortable.

"I felt that my whole lifestyle was being interrogated. . .that I was somehow immoral," she said.

Hamilton said the board members invited her a cafe to discuss an ad she had placed on, an online meeting place for transsexuals.

She had described herself as a "cougar" in the ad.

And, she said, she declared on her candidate's form that she had worked in the sex trade.

Hamilton told The Canadian Press she had, at the party's request, signed up new members for mayoral candidate Peter Ladner's campaign to replace current mayor Sam Sullivan.

Then, she said, she paid the $1,000 deposit the party asked in return for a nomination consideration.

In return, she said, she had to submit to what amounted to an inquisition on her sex life.

"This is 40 years after Pierre Trudeau said the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation," Hamilton said.

"Forty years after this we're still having to deal with this? This is unacceptable."

Ladner said he could not comment on the issue having not been part of the board decision.

Director Joost Bakker confirmed he was involved with the interviews of Hamilton but declined comment. Director Doug Leung also met with Hamilton.

Ladner, Bakker and Leung all referred questions to NPA president Ned Pottinger who could not be reached for comment.

Hamilton has also run for a variety of political positions, from MP for the Green Party to city councillor.

And Hamilton has a record of grand gestures to push her advocacy work forward.

When announcing her candidacy for city council in 2005, she held a news conference dressed in a robe and tiara, calling herself Queen of Hearts.

This year, she has styled herself Queen of the Parks.

However, she readily admits her high-profile antics have provided plenty of publicity for her activism.

And in 1998, she dumped 68 pairs of stiletto-heeled shoes on the steps of city hall to highlight women missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

When she took on federal bawdy house laws, Hamilton opened Grandma's House, a not-for-profit society that offered condoms, referrals, showers and food to prostitutes.

For a fee, the workers could also use a room for their clients.

She was arrested and charged with running a bawdy house and had hoped to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court but the charges were later dropped.

Hamilton supporter Trude Huebner said a number of high-profile NPA members were at a Wednesday fundraiser for Hamilton's campaign.

Huebner said former NPA mayor Phillip Owen spoke of her courage, while councillors Kim Capri, Suzanne Anton and Elizabeth Ball praised her work in the community.

She said candidates Michael Geller, Laura McDiarmid and Christopher Richardson all acknowledged her hard work and consistent advocacy.

With the decision, though, Hamilton said she now questions whether the party is as tolerant and inclusive as it claims and questions whether the party has the "moral authority" to govern Vancouver.

Hamilton said she has long advocated for change for the downtrodden of Vancouver's poverty-stricken Downtown Eastside and lobbied for the rights of the gay, lesbian and transsexual community, as well as sex-trade workers.

"I have been a long-time community activist," she said.

"All of these issues take legislative change to enact fairness and justice for people."

"To be denied a place at the table based on my gender identity and my sexual orientation is absolutely deplorable."