Calls to ‘Defund the Police’ were amplified during the unprecedented protests that followed the death of George Floyd in 2020. Here in Vancouver, the call comes from community groups reacting to a ballooning police budget and an alarming trend toward the criminalization of poverty. On any front, the term ‘defunding the police’ is still wildly misunderstood. It doesn’t mean that there would be no police at all. What it does mean is a reallocation of funds to invest in alternatives to policing. It means indigenous, peer-led, mental health outreach teams, and the redistribution of a budget that eats up 21% of our tax dollars (FYI, that’s about $800 per minute). This column explores some of the community groups in Vancouver that could use some of those funds. Today I’d like to introduce you to Women Transforming Cities.
Women Transforming Cities is a grassroots community of intersectional feminists founded by former Vancouver City Councillor, Ellen Woodsworth. While WTC do plenty of advocacy work in all areas of city life, their Hot Pink Paper Campaign is an exciting and eloquent way of illustrating where candidates stand on issues primarily affecting marginalized and equity-seeking groups that are routinely excluded from the democratic process. The HPP Campaign remains highly relevant even after the election, as it pressures councillors to live up to their promises. We most recently witnessed this when the ABC-dominated council had no choice but to support Christine Boyle’s motion to fast-track non-market builds after they supported the policy ask. WTC also co-hosted the Centering Equity: Vancouver All-Candidates Forum, with the YWCA Metro Vancouver City Shift.
WHO | According to their website: “Women Transforming Cities works to dismantle intersecting systems of oppression with equity-deserving genders and movements to transform where we live into places where everyone can belong, participate, and have social, economic and political equity”. Indeed, educating people about structural injustice and how it cuts across class, gender, race and ability is fundamental to making a Vancouver for everyone – not just the rich. WTC describe themselves as an “anti-oppressive, anti-racist, anti-colonial, and anti-neo-liberal organization” that “educates through workshops, mentorship, and knowledge sharing…advocate for radical policy change that addresses all forms of inequity” and “organizes to create a more inclusive and representative local civic system.”
WHY | …is their work important?
Local communities are often overlooked, but important, sites of resistance. Decisions made by councils have an immediate impact on people’s lives, but not everyone’s voices and lived experiences are valued in city hall. We work to ensure that decision-makers hear the perspectives of those who have been historically excluded from civic processes and to build the civic participation skills of individuals to be able to engage and share their experiences.
WTC is grateful to be able to work alongside so many important organizations as part of a broader movement to ensure that cities are a place where everyone can belong.
— Monique Nicholas, Digital Engagement Coordinator, Women Transforming Cities
Voice and belonging are so important in the creation of a healthy city. We must avoid becoming a city of “haves” and “have-nots”, or what UN Special Rapporteur, Miloon Kothari, calls “apartheid cities“. More funding for Women Transforming Cities would allow them to expand their Watch Council program to municipalities around the province, which would ensure that an intersectional lens is placed on council motions, help support other grassroots organizations across Canada that are working to centre equity in their local governments, and help centre the experience of people who are marginalized in their communities.