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Concerns remain after Grandview-Woodland meeting

City of Vancouver staff attended to discuss the citizens' assembly formation
GWAC citizens' assembly meeting
City of Vancouver staff attended a Grandview-Woodland Area Council meeting Monday to discuss the proposed citizens' assembly. Photo Kristen Moran

City staff came to the Grandview-Woodland Area Council meeting Monday evening to discuss the proposed citizens’ assembly, but the short Q&A period did little to alleviate concerns from residents in attendance.

The GWAC meeting drew roughly 50 people after community members realized city planner Andrew Pask would be in attendance.

Pask, assistant planner Scott Erdman and Kent Munro, assistant director of planning, were on hand at the Britannia Resource Centre to discuss the recently released draft terms of reference and summary of design choices for the Grandview-Woodland Citizens’ Assembly.

Copies of the documents were handed out and Pask gave a PowerPoint presentation with a brief history and overview before opening up the floor to the crowd, which consisted of residents, the GWAC board, Our Community Our Plan (OCOP) members and the Green Party’s Coun. Adriane Carr and Pete Fry.

Resident Garth Mullins asked that they be let in and the process be opened up, a request that echoed the distrust felt by many after last year’s community draft plan included towers up to 36-storeys.

“Just don’t make a citizens’ assembly without us,” Mullins said.

Based on the draft terms of reference, the citizens’ assembly would be formed through a civic lottery that randomly selected 48 people out of the applicants to fill up specific demographics.

That proposal is one of many of the residents’ concerns.

“I am very skeptical of this process,” said resident Zool Suleman. “We are the citizens and we are assembled. GWAC can run a process, OCOP can run a process… anyone can run a process. The problem is you aren’t listening to us.”

Public engagement analyst Susanna Haas Lyons and Rachel Magnusson of MASS LBP consulting firm, both of whom helped produce the design document, also sat with Pask on the panel.

Lyons said it was important to have a variety of participants who fit into certain demographics to get away from the usual group of those involved, which according to her research consisted predominantly of older white males.

It wasn’t the variance of assembly members that caused concern. It was exclusion caused by the restrictive number of participants and the random selection that would mean many of those actively involved wouldn’t have a say.

“A more open door policy makes sense in representing what’s important to everyone in the community,” said resident Jim Fraser.

Magnusson said public roundtables would also be an important part of the consultation, outside of the selected group.

“We need to hear from those of you that have been involved with this from the beginning and there will be an avenue for that,” she said. “We need those creative ideas to come out during those times and regardless if people aren’t selected for the citizens’ assembly, their input and ideas are still going to be very important.”

Age demographic isn’t the only restrictive component, according to residents, who noted an English-only group means language barriers also pose a problem in reaching the entire community.

“I’m disappointed that you have no money whatsoever for translation or interpreters,” said former GWAC president Jak King.

According to the 2006 census, 32 per cent of Grandview-Woodland residents were born outside of Canada and even though English was the dominant mother tongue at 49 per cent, Chinese came in second at 25 per cent.

Magnusson said they need to figure out a way to reach those people and are open to suggestions.

The timeline for the citizens’ assembly has also been a topic of debate.

“A lot of this isn’t happening until after the election so I think we need some reassurance that this isn’t being postponed just to keep us happy,” said GWAC board member Craig Ollenberger.

The hour-long session left many unanswered questions and the projected launch of the assembly is still set of September, after the recruitment process.

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