COPE is the only municipal party in Vancouver to explicitly dedicate spaces for women on its slates.
Enshrined in COPE’s constitution and bylaws is the provision that at least 50% of COPE’s candidates have to be non-male, which is part of a larger affirmative action mandate to ensure equity and diversity within COPE.
These policies recognize the disproportionate barriers women face in politics and work to counter systemic sexism and racism in politics.
The statistics of women in political office in Canada are disgracefully low at federal, provincial, and municipal levels. At the provincial level in BC, only 35% of seats in the BC legislature are filled by women.
The state of gender diversity in government at the municipal level is even worse. On average in municipal governments across Canada, only 26% of City Councilors are women.
In Vancouver specifically, 120 years since the incorporation of the city and over 75 years since the first woman City Councilor was elected on a platform of housing justice, we have never had a woman mayor or a majority of women on City Council. This clearly demonstrates the historic exclusion and ongoing marginalization of women in politics, and reiterates the importance of empowering women who come forward as strong voices for systemic change.
The result of COPE’s affirmative action policy has been inspiring: strong and principled women candidates with diverse backgrounds and experience put their names forward for nomination, and COPE now has a majority of women on its City Council, School Board, and Park Board slates.
As the only municipal political party in Vancouver with a majority of women candidates, COPE is modelling the kind of inclusive and gender diverse political environment we need to strive to build at the municipal level and beyond.
COPE is making history with women in this election in another way too, as the first party in North American history to have three Indigenous women running at the same time: Audrey Siegl for City Council, Diana Day for School Board, and Cease Wyss for Park Board.
COPE’s commitment to equity and diversity permeate all of its policies. COPE has a policy of using an equity lens when assessing and developing all policies, including specific attention to how policies will impact women and girls, as well as other marginalized groups.
A number of other COPE policies respond directly to women’s needs. COPE’s central focus on affordability and plan for a $15 minimum wage and a living wage for city workers are particularly relevant to women, who earn on average 30% less than men’s wages and are disproportionately employed in low-wage jobs. COPE’s policies for affordable housing, affordable transit, and a city-wide strategy for affordable child care are particularly critical to women.
COPE also will provide more services for immigrant and migrant women and work to make Vancouver a Sanctuary City. Migrant women face barriers to health care, including access to pre- and post-natal care, and may stay in abusive relationships and not access services in cases of domestic violence for fear of being detained or deported as a result. Sanctuary City and access to essential services is critical for the well-being of migrant women.
COPE firmly calls for an end to violence against women and will reallocate police resources to ensure full and proper investigation of complaints of male violence against women, in accordance with the recommendations of the Murdered and Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry. Violence against women must stop, and historic and ongoing violence against Indigenous women must be taken seriously and investigated.
Endorsing the 2007 Living in Community plan to support sex workers right to form unions, live and work free of violence, and have access to supports on their own terms, COPE advocates a decriminalization and harm reduction approach to sex work and opposes Bill C-36 in its entirety.
COPE is already modeling gender diversity in politics through its candidates in this election, but also calls for comprehensive electoral reform. Advocating campaign financing reform, reinstatement of a ward system in Vancouver, and implementation proportional representation are ways in which COPE is calling for greater change to the electoral system to remove barrier to participation and increase equity and diversity in municipal politics.
Given these policies, COPE is the only real option for feminists. Inclusion of women and marginalized people is not tokenistic, it comes from a systemic critique of how and why the political system is failing to answer the needs of these groups.