Green Party of Vancouver candidates seek diversity, sustainability

Sidewalk successes spurred Janet Fraser’s political aspirations.

The Green Party of Vancouver candidate wants to be elected Vancouver School Board trustee in the Nov. 15 civic election.

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One of Fraser’s successes materialized when she served as PAC chair at Laurier Annex on West 65th Avenue near Cambie Street.

“Our school didn’t have sidewalks that went all the way to the schools, so through the PAC we talked to the city and we did get two rounds of sidewalk construction,” she said. “You’re walking to school, you’re on something you’ve improved, you see other students coming to school, parents pushing strollers, you can see that you’ve made a difference and I wanted to be able to do that for more students across the city.”

Fraser says she values Green principles she says include ecological justice, respect for diversity and non-violence. If elected, she’d work to make the board feel less distant to parents, citing a lack of straightforward access to meeting information and reports on the VSB website.

As for whether the VSB should have accepted $475,000 in Fuel Your Schools money from Chevron Canada, Fraser says she wouldn’t want to see commercial advertising in schools. She notes the board’s policy on corporate partnerships was created in 2005, before the VSB’s sustainability framework was adopted in 2010.

“I want to see the [corporate partnerships] policy reviewed with more input from parents, from staff, from students because time has moved on from 2005,” she said.

Fraser has served as chair or co-chair on PACs for 10 years, co-founded the Marpole Matters community group, worked as a scientist in the pharmaceutical biotech industry for 10 years and has been an at-home parent for 10 years.

Mischa Oak, the other Green trustee candidate, says he has taught in all 18 Vancouver high schools and all but 10 elementary schools in the more than six years he’s been a teacher on call.

Oak says he was the only adult who intervened at a south side school when a student faced homophobic bullying and when Oak spoke to the principal about the problem she was unsupportive. Oak wants all students to feel safe in every school.

“Right now, a lot of the programming in schools is about you can’t say this or you can’t do that; it’s this negative language,” Oak said. “[We need] to facilitate a culture where all kids feel like their differences make our schools stronger.”

Oak believes schools should be held accountable and have to report to the board on diversity programming support. He also believes the diversity coordinator position at the board should be full-time.

Oak wants more action on sustainability at Vancouver schools. He sees energy and paper being wasted and wants to see more composting, community gardens and safe cycling and walking routes to schools.

Both Green candidates say the board needs to better communicate funding shortfalls to the community to help lobby the government for more money.

In addition to advocating for funding, Oak notes the VSB pays $450,000 per year in carbon offsets to the provincial government and receives roughly one third of that back from the province. Oak says the district should see the full amount returned.

Oak says the VSB must better use its resources, such as space rentals, to boost its revenues and chase additional sources of funding. Oak believes Vancouver and B.C. trustees should pressure the federal government for more money to support ESL and First Nations students.

Oak, who recently served as president of the Vancouver Centre NDP, chose to run for the Greens because he’s uncomfortable with Vision Vancouver’s relationship with developers and feels the Green Party is a better match for him than COPE.

In 2002, Vision Vancouver council candidate and incumbent Andrea Reimer was the first Green school board representative elected in Canada and the only Green trustee elected in Vancouver.

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