There is a misconception that queer issues are not on the ballot, especially for a municipal election. In reality, our City Council has immense power and influence over how the day to day lives of Ottawa residents. Policy decisions and funding priorities made by councils and school boards that impact one marginalized community impact us all. Whether you’re voting age or know people who are, this information hub can help you understand the local context for municipal issues that acutely impact 2SLGBTQIA+ lives in Ottawa.
Hate is on the rise in Ottawa, most apparently in anti-trans specific hate seen through mass TERF sticker and postering campaigns in the downtown core to protests targeting trans youth at their schools. Additionally, police reported crimes motivated by hate towards gay and lesbian residents has climbed significantly since 2020, all of which display how the right to an existence in public spaces as a queer or trans person is increasingly precarious in this city. With one-third (33%) of LGBTQ2+ residents in Canada struggling to “meet their needs in terms of transportation, housing, food… and other necessary expenses,” means Council’s public infrastructure decisions are LGBTQ issues. The hostility of public spaces towards low income residents mirrors the hateful treatment trans people face at the hands of other residents and transmisogynistic postering– The message is clear, there is no space for you and Ottawa councillors don’t plan on making any.
“As an organization focussed on addressing systemic anti-Black racism, including against our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, the Hub fully supports CCGSD’s Vote Local. Vote Queer.”
Ottawa’s current council has invested most heavily in reactionary measures to improve safety, most specifically by increasing the funding to the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) at a significantly faster rate than social services. Last year specifically, 95 social services fought for municipal funding that is less than 10% ($25M) of the investment Council made into the police ($346M). However, during the Safer Cities for Trans Folks panel event we co-organized last year, we heard community members share how police are not trusted by queer residents. OPS’s 2019 LGBTQ survey tells a similar story. Community respondents said they would not report to OPS any hate crimes against themselves (28%), against others (33%) or other crimes against themselves (32%) or other LGBTQ residents (41%) due to various reasons including, fear of victim-blaming, biased treatment, and being dismissed. LGBTQ residents are not alone in this reality, OPS also have a pattern of racist and ableist treatment of racialized and mentally ill residents. For example, use of force data released by OPS this year, tells us that even though Black people are least likely to be in possession of a weapon or combative when confronted, the Ottawa Police use violence against these residents most frequently. It is also important to know that communities targeted by incarceration also become prohibited from voting in municipal elections. Notably, despite annual budget increases, OPS hate crime clearance rate is only 21%.
In CCGSD’s Action Plan survey, respondents confirm that prevention models are priorities for LGBTQ communities as they would reduce the need for crisis intervention in the first place. A report created by 613-819 Black Hub and Vivic Research illustrates how Ottawa could implement an alternative to police-based mental health crisis responses. Journalists at Leveller have published an extensive timeline on the violence OPS has inflicted on disproportionately racialized residents, many in a health crisis, displaying how reactionary and armed (read police) intervention actually reduces safety. When trans leaders in Ottawa came together to discuss what safer cities meant to them in September 2021, the panel spoke to how trans people’s safety is harmed by the negligence of municipal powers to reduce structural inequities that marginalize their residents. Moreover, the refusal of Council and other city governance bodies to officially denounce the anti-trans hate and take strong political action towards making space for their existences, voices, and agency, tells trans people that they do not belong in Ottawa. Our Council should be ashamed, and must act! So what does action look like?
Saying Yes to Education and Social Services (#YESS) like trans inclusive budget commitments in schools to interrupt harmful ideologies early and support queer students, increasing funding for affordable housing and public transit to reduce hostility of public spaces, and ensuring adequate funding for violence prevention services that confronts precarity before it leads to crisis. It also means acknowledging hate when it happens and making intentional space within municipal governance structures to ensure 2SLGBTQIA+ residents are heard.
Violence, hate and precarity will never be prevented by forces that are designed to react once harm has already occurred. Despite the budgetary priority they receive police funding increases will never house, feed, or care for those chronically in crisis. Municipal governments need to prioritize prevention by funding social infrastructure that will foster safer cities in the day to day lives of their residents.
Jade Byard Peek
“It’s so great to have a community center where you have security, you have a place to meet people feel when you feel like you’re not going to be threatened every time but like if you don’t have clear like legal protection… for violence or for hate or you know, if you don’t have access to like housing or things of that sort you know, then you’re not going to feel safe.“
Demand that your council candidates:
1. Publicly and unequivocally denounce anti-trans hate, rhetoric, and violence in the City of Ottawa.
2. Respond to the recommendations identified in Wisdom2Action’s report with a clear plan for implementation.
3. Create and adequately fund a designated 2SLGBTQ+ Secretariat within the City of Ottawa.
4. Establish a municipal 2SLGBTQ+ advisory council with community members and representatives from local 2SLGBTQ+ organizations, to inform and guide municipal efforts on 2SLGBTQ+ health, safety and rights.
5. Follow CPEP’s lead and say Yes to Education and Social Services #YESS and No to Prison / Police Expansion #NOPE
Ottawa Municipal Election is in...