You & Me BC
Serving You: Jean Swanson
Jean Swanson's been an ongoing voice for change in Vancouver
You & Me BC
December 5th, 2021
In this series, we talk with elected representatives from across BC, getting to know them and the issues they care about most.
This time we chat with long-time anti-poverty activist and Vancouver councillor Jean Swanson, who became a city councillor for the first time at 75-years-old and has many ideas to change BC's biggest city.
Pets: A giant Christmas cactus
Favourite meal: Dessert
Favourite movie: The Atomic Café. I liked it because it really opened my eyes to how my thinking and world view had been manipulated by propaganda
Hero: Indigenous people struggling for justice through genocide for over 500 years
Why was it important for you that October was proclaimed Community Inclusion Month, in recognition of persons with intellectual disabilities?
Jean: I think it’s important that everyone feels included, including people with disabilities--although some might call disabilities gifts. My daughter is a kindergarten teacher, and students with disabilities see things in a different way; it can be a big strength.
How's Vancouver doing on inclusion in general - not just for persons with disabilities?
Jean: I was just at a news conference put on by Pivot and VANDU, with a number of speakers who would be put in the marginalized category.
They were very articulate about why police shouldn’t take stuff from them during police sweeps. This needs to stop and the city has the responsibility to help do it.
Allowing homelessness is another way people are excluded. There's no excuse for homelessness or poverty in today’s prosperity.
Jean speaking at the Out of Poverty Parade
What are some of the main things that would help address that?
Jean: Ending poverty and homeless are totally doable if we have the political will.
There’s also changes to be made when it comes to policing. We had a motion to replace police services with community services when it comes to mental health, and that would go a long way in helping people who are struggling and need help.
Racism is also huge in BC, especially against people who are black or Indigenous, but it’s not a contest - all racism is bad. We need to do more to help Indigenous persons get back their land rights and ending unbalanced dealing with the government.
What are your goals as a councillor next year, and looking ahead beyond?
Jean: At council I'm mostly trying to work on things I've started already, like community-led services replacing police services, and getting vacancy controls on SROs (single room occupancy housing).
I also want to do a motion on mansion tax. It's insane that we don't have a municipal government with a progressive level of tax; Chip Wilson with a $60 million mansion gets taxed at the same rate as a $500,000 condo.
And because so much is being dumped on city in terms of housing, homelessness, and climate change, we desperately need that revenue.
I think the most important thing, the key to improving life for people throughout Vancouver, is to get housing out of the market, starting with people who are homeless and working up the income ladder.
Make it so housing isn’t an asset, but a human right.
To get in touch with Spencer van Vloten, editor of You & Me BC, please send an email to email@example.com