WTC follows Vancouver City Council agendas in order to ensure a gendered intersectional lens is applied to city work as is mandated by the Gender Equity Strategy and the motion passed unanimously in May 2019 to put a gendered intersectional lens on all departments for six years.
Two extremely important issues came up at last week's meetings. We acted quickly.
On May 22 Women Transforming Cities sent a letter of concern to Vancouver Mayor and Council calling on the City to put a gendered intersectional lens on the COVID-19 Recovery Strategy and to consult with women’s organizations on how to address the disproportionate gendered and racialized job and small business losses, and huge increase in domestic violence with the lack of affordable housing.
We were shocked that the discussion on May 29 and motion going to Council on June 3 did not reference consulting women’s organizations, unions or other community organizations.
When the Council agenda was posted, we discovered the May 27 2020 Council would be presented with a Budget where of the eight equity-related initiatives previously approved in council’s 2020 budget, six were recommended by city staff to be cut or delayed. This amounted to a 68% drop in funding – from $2 million to a mere $650,00.
Included in the programs to be de-funded were the Gender Equity Framework, programs to increase engagement with indigenous engagement, community development to create low-barrier employment, computer access in low-income neighbourhoods, the Mayor’s Overdose Task Force, sexual harassment and violence prevention programs, Access Without Fear, a program to ensure undocumented residents receive city services and a freeze on the hiring of the new Equity Manager position.
Councillor Jean Swanson responded, and we presented our concerns that years of equity work could disappear with these cuts. She understood the need to act quickly and despite Council resistance to amendments, she moved a motion asking city staff “to find ways to preserve work and funding for equity and diversity issues” which passed unanimously.
We called and thanked her. She said “I’m relieved we could stop these cuts to programs helping the most vulnerable people in our city but the fact that we were so close to losing them shows how important it is to support grassroots organizations fighting for justice, and to get progressive representatives on council."