Same Name | New Projects | Work on At-Large Lawsuit Takes Another Step | Decrim Book Out August (Really)

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Forward Together News
July 21, 2023

Happy July!

A big thank you to those who have been reaching out or stopping Jeanette, me, and Fergus to say "Hi" while we’re out and about.

Your insights reaffirm we’re always stronger together. Here’s what we’re up to.

Retooling for 2026

Our team has been working hard to plan Forward Together’s next steps to push back against the ABC agenda and for progressive change. With your input, we’ve made a few early decisions.

First, by popular demand, we’re sticking with the name Forward Together! It is well known and sums up what we’re all about. So while you’ll see other changes, changing our name isn’t one of them. 

Second, over the next three years we’ll focus on five key areas:

  1. Improving local democracy
  2. Ending the war on drug users
  3. Building more affordable housing and protecting renters  
  4. Tackling the climate emergency
  5. ….With Indigenous reconciliation running through all our projects and campaigns

Campaign #1: Improving local democracy by abolishing the at-large electoral system

We are excited to announce our first post-election campaign involves taking the at-large electoral system to court. There have been many valiant attempts over the years to get rid of this system we use to elect B.C.’s municipal governments, all of which have failed. While courts have struck down at-large systems in the United States, no case against the at-large system has ever been brought forward in Canada. So we’re going to do it.

(Click here for a primer from the U.S. as to what this all may look like)

To this end, we have retained a prominent law firm to explore the constitutional case against the at-large system. Our initial work is focussed on the extent to which the following at-large electoral effects may be unconstitutional, including:

  • Producing mostly white councils rather than reflecting Vancouver’s diversity;
  • Imposing mile-long ballots which deprive voters of proper information;
  • Advantaging wealthier, west-side voters over those in the rest of the city; and
  • Disadvantaging candidates lacking deep pockets.

In addition, we are speaking with First Nations’ representatives and our lawyers about exploring how the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act impacts Indigenous representation on local municipal bodies, including municipal councils, and whether we should include this aspect of local governance in our case.

There seems to be significant initial interest in this aspect of the work as, for example, where the provincially-constituted Metro Vancouver Board includes representation from scəẃaθən məsteyəxʷ (Tsawwassen First Nation), no other First Nation about whose territories Metro makes decisions has formal representation on the board. This seems wrong and unjust. 

Also, where past opponents of the at-large system have always argued to replace the at-large system with a ward system, our approach is to argue the provincial government should replace at-large elections with any one of a series of better options including, for example, proportional representation. In the end, we will argue the choice for the court is not “at-large or wards”, but rather “at-large or any better system”.

Finally, as all B.C’s local governments are selected using at-large systems, we are building teams in Vancouver and other municipalities. We have some keen and early interest from Surrey-based activists and invite you to join, if you’re interested in this issue wherever you may live.

Click here if you’d like to chip in and help!

Campaign #2: Ending the war on drug users

The war on drug users continues to have a devastating effect on our communities.

The most recent statistical report from the BC Coroners service is simply horrific: 184 unregulated drug-related deaths in June alone which is a 17 percent increase from the same time last year.

Each one of these people who have died are loved by their families, friends, and neighbours.These preventable deaths are a result of a massive health policy failure at all levels of government.   

We continue to push for decriminalization and safer supply as the best way forward. I’ve been meeting with local advocates and federal officials, including federal cabinet members. In addition, my book Decrim: How we decriminalized drugs in British Columbia is coming out in late August with proceeds to the Overdose Prevention Society. The book is already receiving considerable attention from notable community members from across the political spectrum.

  • When many politicians were moving back to the “War on Drugs” mentality, Kennedy Stewart was looking for solutions that could help all citizens in Vancouver. Before even being elected he reached out to me and other health advocates in the Downtown Eastside to see how we could build a coalition. That thinking is what has allowed the City of Vancouver to continue to lead on the illicit-drug issue. - Dean Wilson, British Columbia Centre of Substance Use Peer Facilitation Lead
  • While other politicians make cheap points demonizing people who use drugs, Kennedy Stewart courageously led and advocated for a compassionate, evidence-based approach to substance use. I hope his successful campaign to decriminalize drugs is a historic starting point in emerging from the costly, ineffective, and deadly war on drugs. - Benjamin Perrin, UBC law professor and former Conservative Party advisor

Click here to order Decrim from Harbour Publishing.

Two other upcoming campaigns

We are in the planning stages of two other campaigns.

The first campaign concerns building more affordable housing and protecting renters.

We will continue to push the federal, provincial, and municipal governments to take measures to increase secure market- and below-market rental housing while protecting existing tenants.This campaign is in its early stages and we will be asking for your ideas as to how to proceed in the near future.

The second new campaign involves taking on the climate emergency by ensuring the Broadway subway runs all the way to UBC.

I worked hard during my term as mayor to reduce vehicle emissions by building public transit. However, the UBCx extension appears to be faltering due to a lack of support by Translink and Vancouver City Council.

UBCx is not only important from an environmental perspective, but also for the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam Indian Band), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tseilwututh Nation) who are depending on this project to build housing on their traditional and unceded territories including the Jericho lands. We are planning a new campaign to get this project back on the rails and opened by 2030.

We need your help

As you can see, we have been working away over the last six months and are ready to ramp up our efforts with your help.

You’ve let us know each one of these projects – housing, drug policy reform, the climate emergency, and improving local democracy – is very important, but they also need resourcing.

We ask you to support these programs by making a donation to Forward Together.

The maximum donation for 2023 is $1,324 with all donations appreciated.

Donate online here. 

You can also donate by cheque to: Forward Together, PO Box 98172 Yaletown RPO, Vancouver, B.C. V6Z 2X7.

As always, please keep in touch.

I love hearing from you - it always makes my day!

Best wishes,


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