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Is There a Distinctly “Vancouver” Watch?
Your environmental activism at the Eagleridge Bluffs—and your subsequent imprisonment—got you noticed in 2006. But where are your activist roots? When I was nine years old, back in 1930s Louisiana, my father saved a black man from drowning. Other men were watching and wouldn’t help. My father lit into them, saying, “God made him, too. And God is watching you.” I still remember that. Then in 1961, I split with the Baptist church over integration. In 1964, I refused to pay income tax because of Vietnam. And that’s partly why I came to British Columbia—my son was being drafted.How many times have you been arrested? Eight. I’ve been an activist all my life. My anti-war work even threatened my husband’s security clearance—he was working at NASA. But my first arrest was in Canada, out at Clayoquot Sound.What was your time at Alouette prison like? It’s a very sad place. But also hopeful. I found unexpected kindness—from the inmates and the staff. The program director there would take the prisoners outside the prison walls on walks and bike rides. But they can no longer do that.About 1,500 people wrote letters to you while you were in jail. What did they want to tell you? They agreed we mustn’t back down when defending the environment. It was heartening to receive letters from other countries, and all ages. Whole classes of children wrote.
Someone spray-painted “Free Betty” on the Olympic clock. Was that okay by you? These hard-line people in the government complain about the defacement of public property. But these are the same people who are robbing us blind of real public property. Our forests. Our water. Our civil liberties.
So at 80, you’re running for mayor yourself. What would you do if elected this November? The first thing I’d do as mayor is legalize pot. And I would make a good mayor because—unlike men, who can’t pull over and ask for directions—I can say, “What do you know about this?” And I’d be focused on three things: public health care, public education, and public energy—saving our water, our environment.
Are those all issues within the mayor’s purview? People say that dealing with these problems isn’t the mayor’s job. Well, it is. When I know something is wrong, I cannot ignore it.What do you think of Mayor Sam Sullivan? I think he’s an extremely mediocre person. His idea of a civil city is a joke. There is more homelessness, more drug addiction, since he came on. And he talks about EcoDensity but won’t make Shaughnessy or Kerrisdale denser.
You grew up in the American South, which prides itself on its civility. Plus you’ve raised eight children and helped out with eight grandkids. What’s your idea of a civil society? A civil society is egalitarian. You can’t be civil if there’s such a disparity between the best- and worst-off. It should be a mandate to respect the working people. And minimum wage is an outrage.What do you think your chances are in this election? I’m a winner already. I was conceived. Those odds are one in a million. They make all other odds look pretty good, don’t you think?