This feature highlights one of many women who make a difference in the community, put on by ACAWS and the Alberni Valley News as part of the 16 Days of Activism. Read our other features here.
I am a woman of privilege by virtue of being born a white woman in Canada. At the age of 31, I found myself suddenly invisible as a result of a marriage breakdown. I was a single mother with two pre-school children who had to turn to Income Assistance for financial support for an extended period.
The isolation of poverty is profound, and I vowed that when I was able to get off the welfare system I would become an advocate for those on the system that had no voice. So thirty years later, I am proud to stand with those that are experiencing poverty and require assistance to understand their options and access their rights.
I believe that having safe affordable housing is a basic human right and so I have taken on the role of Champion to the cause of increasing the stock of affordable rental housing in our community. I believe in the principle of Housing First, which is the concept that people can’t work on their issues until they have a stable home.
In our community we have a rental housing availability crisis which is resulting in many citizens having to live in precarious situations. Major losses of low cost rental housing to fires, change of land use and older buildings being condemned has created a near zero vacancy rate.
I have been a member of the NDP Women’s Rights Committee for over thirty years and we successfully lobbied for gender parity in all decision making bodies of the NDP. Today I am celebrating that we have a Government Caucus that is 50% women, a first for British Columbia and a first for Canada.
Gender equality is something that is important for me as I believe any decision making body should reflect the faces of the people they represent. Since women make up over fifty per cent of the population, their expertise is needed at the table.
I have the privilege of working in a job where I get the opportunity to be a “System Navigator” for people in crisis. I am constantly amazed by the courage and fortitude of people once they have someone who can stand beside them and help them navigate the process of accessing services and benefits.
We live in a society where the concept of “self help” is promoted but the fact is that when people are experiencing a crisis it is a major challenge to respond in a timely and effective way.
This week I had an opportunity to mediate a Landlord and Tenant dispute which resulted in an agreement to maintain the tenancy and avoid a Dispute Resolution Hearing with the Residential Tenancy Branch.