Greater Napanee Pride hosts first all candidates evening on 2SLGBTQIA+ issues

Current Councillor John McCormack, who is running for the position of Deputy Mayor for the 2022 to 2026 term of Great Napanee Town Council, responds to a question from those in attendance at Greater Napanee Pride’s all candidates meeting as his fellow council hopefuls look on. Screenshot image.

A first-of-its-kind all candidates meeting hosted by Greater Napanee Pride on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, with questions brought forward by members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, saw municipal candidates discuss the issues with widely varying degrees of success.

“Some candidates appeared uninformed, and in a few cases uncaring, about issues affecting the Pride community. Thanks to all who showed that they are caring and are willing to learn more,” Napanee resident and business owner, Christine Peets, wrote in a comment on the event recording

Indeed, there were several awkward instances where some candidates seemed confused by the questions and even by the issues being raised.

At the beginning of the meeting, moderator Nina Irvine from Greater Napanee Pride explained the group’s reason for hosting the event: “We really felt it was important to show up for this election, to prove to our community that we are here all year round. We’re not just here in the summer. We’re not just here in Pride Month. We’ve always been in this community, but we haven’t had a platform and visibility. So now that we have that, we also have accountability. Elections only happen once every four years, so we really didn’t want to let this slip by.”

Irvine told the audience, “In our first hour we’ll be giving each candidate two minutes to speak directly to you. We have asked the candidates to come prepared to speak on issues that they have heard from constituents who are part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Napanee, as well as issues they themselves have observed happening for or to the community. We also asked them to tell us how they plan to support the community if elected, as well as their own thoughts on why Napanee needs Pride.”

It should be noted that none of the candidates acknowledged publicly that they themselves were members of the 2SLGTBQIA+ community.

Even the acronym 2SLGBTQIA+ — which stands for Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, with the + [plus] reflecting the countless affirmative ways people choose to self-identify — became a bit too much for some candidates. Ward 2 candidate, Angela Hicks, quipped that it was “a bit of a mouthful,” while acknowledging its importance. For comment clarity, many candidates and even some members of the public began referring to the “Pride community” in its stead.

After opening addresses where many of the candidates stressed that they were all for equality, one audience member pointed to the importance of “understanding the experience of living through oppression, especially [the experiences of] those who grew up in this community, who have returned to this community, or have stayed here.” 

They asked, “There is a difference between equity and equality… Which councillors [candidates] are interested in equity initiatives versus relying on ‘equality’ as [their ‘go to’ term]?”

A few of the candidates appeared not to understand the question itself or did not have a good grasp of the difference between equality and equity.

The candidates for deputy mayor spoke first on this topic. 

Current Councillor John McCormack said, “It’s imperative that the members of the community come to us… Things will not happen — not just for the Pride community, but for any other organization — if they don’t request [Council’s help]. Regular citizens have to be in touch with your Council member [and] press for results… The next Council hopefully will be more than happy to accommodate and work with you, but you have to start the process… Council members get wrapped up in other issues, and your focus should be paid to the Pride community; [it] has to be a 50-50 back and forth. So I think we can accomplish a lot, but you have to stay in touch, you have to keep asking.”

Brian Calver then said, “I’m all about equality. Every single person in this community has to be treated equally. We’re never going to get anywhere if it’s a he, she, they, them, whatever; we are all one community. We’re all the same, and until everybody starts to treat everybody equally, we’re not going to get ahead.” He then reiterated McCormack’s sentiments about the “Pride community” actively pressing Town Council for support and re-emphasized, “If get elected, I will treat every person equally.”

Eric DePoe argued that “equity is talking about outcomes; equality is talking about getting the same [treatment]. These are two different aspects of the same thing. Affirmative action programs try to accomplish equity rather than equality… People who oppose affirmative action programs have used the equality argument to negate the equity argument, which I think is philosophically and morally wrong… We want equality of outcome. We want to see people succeed… That doesn’t mean we have perfect equality.”

DePoe went on, “There is an old saying that both rich men and poor men have an equal right to sleep under London Bridge, but of course, the rich man would never, while the poor man may have to… What we’re talking about are social outcomes… That’s what we need to focus on, not equality but equity.”

To see how all of the candidates answered the same question and more, visit the  Greater Napanee Pride’s Facebook event page for a video of all the evening’s events.

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