My recent comments on public safety in and around downtown. Mike Smyth Show – 980 CKNW. October 5, 2021.
In recent months there have been growing concerns about public safety in downtown and surrounding neighbourhoods. Residents and businesses alike are asking – what can be done and what are we doing to ensure the city is safe and inclusive for all residents?
We’re writing this letter to tell you – we hear you, we share your concerns, and we are taking steps to address them. This means:
- Supporting and appropriately funding our police force so they can respond to emergencies as well as proactively address vandalism, crime and safety issues;
- Increasing police presence and patrols in affected neighbourhoods;
- Continuing to advocate strongly for Provincial support of:
- More wraparound services for people in need, including mental health and addiction treatment and recovery options
- A complex care housing system that provides services for people who are falling through the cracks in the current supportive housing model
- On site supportive services in dedicated social housing projects
- Ensuring police officers are trained in de-escalation, trauma informed response, conflict resolution and anti-racism;
- Supporting de-escalation information and resources.
During last year’s budget debate, we opposed deep cuts to the police budget, and fought to support the Vancouver Police Board endorsed budget, which would have made some of these actions possible.
Police and fire are critical services – services that have changed with the times and need to continue to evolve to effectively serve our communities.
The Province has recognized this, and is currently undertaking an important review of the Police Act. Recommendations from the review are expected next Spring. We can expect those recommendations to consider a more health-centered response to mental health and addiction crises. And we need to be open to exploring new approaches to an opioid crisis that takes more lives daily and annually than the Covid-19 pandemic has.
Meanwhile the fact remains that we do not have an alternative framework for effectively or safely responding to the myriad of issues that are playing out on our streets. We need to concurrently support and fund our police force so they can serve our collective interest in a city where everyone feels safe to live and work.
Like many organizations, police forces need to look inwards and address systemic racism and biases. Knee jerk moves to defund the police are not the answer. Thoughtful and planned systems change is the only way to address public safety, and to adapt services to respond to the mental health and addiction related crises playing out on our streets and in our neighbourhoods.
Through the UBCM (Union of BC Municipalities) Conference this week, we are actively meeting with Provincial Ministers including the Ministers of Public Safety, Housing, and Mental Health. These issues are top priorities for our discussions, and will continue to be our focus to bring solutions forward working with the different levels of government to address these critical and complex challenges.
We encourage the Mayor and Council to come together and have a real discussion about the critical issue of public safety in the city. While the Province continues its cross-ministry work on issues related to mental health, addictions, and complex care housing, we cannot simply sit and wait. Our mandate as local government is to work effectively with police and ensure public safety.
Councillors Dominato, Hardwick and Kirby-Yung leave NPA
Vancouver, BC (April 21, 2021): Vancouver Councillors Lisa Dominato, Colleen Hardwick and Sarah Kirby-Yung are leaving the NPA (Non-Partisan Association) to sit as a group of independents after being blindsided by the NPA board’s secret backroom decision to run John Coupar as the party’s mayoral candidate for the upcoming 2022 municipal election.
“We have heard loud and clear from NPA members and supporters that the actions of the Board and John Coupar do not reflect the standards of transparency, integrity and accountability we all expect from the NPA and each other,” said Hardwick. “NPA supporters and Vancouverites deserve better, which is why the three of us are stepping away from the NPA to sit as a group of independents. Instead of a fair and democratic process to select the best mayoral candidate, the NPA Board and John Coupar sidelined the elected members of the NPA and made a backroom deal. By any measure, it was about as old-boys-club as it gets.”
In an open letter to NPA members and supporters (see below and attached), the councillors said the NPA organization as it stands today cannot be trusted to govern fairly or responsibly and that it does not represent the values and standards that Vancouver residents and NPA supporters expect and deserve. The letter outlines a series of events that unfolded since the current board took control in November 2019, including Caucus demands for an open NPA Annual General Meeting and renewal that have been ignored.
”The NPA Board has gone in the wrong direction and is out of touch with supporters and residents who have been reaching out to express their concerns,” said Dominato. “Women in politics need to stand up for their point of view and lead by example. As a group of independents, we will continue to provide strong leadership at the Council table, focused on bringing the city together rather than divisive politicking.”
“The public response shows the party has lost any connection with the people of Vancouver with this move of pulling a power play behind the backs of their elected Councillors, and with no transparency to the public. We stand up every day in and out of Council chambers to bring Vancouverites voices forward, and wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t stand against this. I’m proud to be serving on Vancouver’s first-ever majority women council and I won’t diminish that by not drawing the line. In 2021 we shouldn’t have to fight for a level playing field but we are,” said Kirby-Yung. “Moving forward, we’ll be sitting as independents working together and across the aisle to deliver strong and smart leadership to help move Vancouver forward. This story is far from over. We expect to have more to say about the future of our incredible city, people and our neighbourhoods in the months ahead.”
Councillor Lisa Dominato 778-980-4422
Councillor Colleen Hardwick 778-999-7677
Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung 604-788-1352
April 21, 2021
Dear NPA Members and supporters:
We hope that you are safe and healthy during these unprecedented times we find ourselves in. Regretfully, we are writing to inform you that we are leaving the Non-Partisan Association (NPA).
As many of you know, we were completely taken aback by the recent appointment of John Coupar as the NPA’s 2022 Mayoral candidate. Immediately following the announcement, NPA supporters and members reached out to us expressing deep concern about the lack of transparency, accountability and integrity of the selection process. Many of you questioned this secret appointment, which excluded all elected caucus members including four women on Council. If the past few weeks has taught us anything, it is that women in politics have to stand up for their point of view.
The NPA is supposed to represent your values of good governance and responsible leadership, transparency and accountability to citizens, diversity and inclusion of all Vancouver citizens. This secret appointment did not meet your minimum standards the NPA should represent. Your questions were simple and legitimate: How could this happen and is this the end of the NPA as we know it?
For context, it is important to outline the events that have led up to where we are today.
● November 2019: The November 2019 NPA Annual General Meeting elected a new Board of Directors. Following the AGM, there were a series of media reports characterizing board members as far right-wing, citing specific examples.
● December 2019: Councillor Rebecca Bligh resigned citing concerns that the newly elected board harboured anti-2SLGBTQ+ sentiments. The NPA caucus responded with a statement of support for the 2SLGBTQ+ community and SOGI 123.
● January 2020: NPA elected Councillors, Trustees and Park Board Commissioners issued a letter to the NPA Board asking them to affirm their commitment to inclusion and diversity.
● July 2020: Four NPA directors resigned citing concerns over the board’s ineffectiveness.
● September 2020: The elected caucus issued a statement regarding an NPA board member’s comments.
● January 2021: The elected NPA Councillors, School Board Trustees and Park Board Commissioners met and collectively decided to call on the NPA Board to hold an AGM. To date, an AGM date has not been announced.
● February 2021: The NPA Caucus met and began the process of activating 10% of the association’s membership to trigger a Special Meeting under the By-laws and Societies Act to set a date for the AGM.
● April 2021: The NPA Board announced John Coupar as the Mayoral Candidate. Elected NPA caucus members were kept in the dark and NPA members did not have a say in the decision.
● April 2021: Councillors Hardwick, Dominato and Sarah Kirby-Yung issued a public statement in response to the appointment, which they stand by today.
Over the past 18 months, the NPA elected caucus has responded to multiple media enquiries regarding the Board’s directors and policy direction, and issued several statements reiterating the elected caucus’ commitment to inclusion, diversity and stand against hate and discrimination. This has been an enormous distraction from focusing on the critical issues facing the city.
Despite our many efforts, the NPA Board has failed to address a number of issues that NPA members and supporters want:
● Open, accountable and responsible governance, as set out in the British Columbia Societies Act and the NPA bylaws.
● An open and transparent candidate selection process for the positions of Mayor, Councillors, School Trustees and Park Board Commissioners, elected democratically by the membership of the NPA.
● A clear and unequivocal statement of support for inclusion and diversity.
We have lost confidence in the NPA’s ability to govern fairly and responsibly. We don’t have faith the NPA will represent the priorities and values of Vancouver residents, and are looking forward to restoring hope and setting a new direction for the future of Vancouver.
Therefore, we are leaving the NPA and will sit as a group of independents. It is 18 months until the next election. We will continue to provide leadership at Council and consider the best interests of the city.
Councillor Lisa Dominato
Councillor Colleen Hardwick
Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung