Advocating for skateboard culture seems like a lifetime ago for Sarah Blyth.
Far removed from 2008 when she was the founding president of the Vancouver Skateboard Coalition, Blyth has spent the better part of the last five years advocating in life and death situations.
Having announced her council candidacy Wednesday, she now wants those voices represented at city hall.
“Nobody knows better than I do about the situation that we’re in,” Blyth told the Courier Thursday morning. “I think I can speak to it at all the different forums to keep people understanding and raise awareness to help prevent people from dying.”
Blyth is a co-founder of the Overdose Prevention Society. She’s been a central figure in setting up unsanctioned, supervised injection sites over the last three years throughout the Downtown Eastside. Prior to that, Blyth was a two-term park board commissioner aligned with Vision Vancouver.
She’s now opting for the independent route.
“I think I can run independently,” she said. “To be honest I just want to get up and go and run for the people and not sign up memberships and not go to functions and things like that. I just want to get out there and start talking about what the issues are.”
Homelessness, addressing the opioid crisis and affordability are Blyth’s main talking points. She’s not endorsing any of the declared mayoral candidates, other than to suggest she will back the progressive candidate who’s furthest ahead in polling numbers come the October election.
At 45, Blyth has lived in Vancouver for close to four decades. The Commercial Drive resident has a background in hairdressing and board sports: she formerly managed a snowboard team and was a founding partner with an indoor skate ramp in East Vancouver in the early 2000s.
Blyth says she’s undaunted by the potential scrutiny associated with serving in public office.
“I’m going to be as honest as I can and speak to what the realities are,” she said. “If you can break [those issues] down to people so that they understand maybe they’re not going to get exactly what they want, at least they understand why you’re making a certain decision.”
Regardless of her standing in the election, Blyth is using her candidacy to push conversations forward around addictions and homelessness. She’s confident that decriminalization is on the near horizon and believes local governments across Canada are becoming more receptive to the idea of both overdose prevention and supervised injection sites.
“The hope remains that we can push things so that we can stop the crisis. And I think that we can,” Blyth said. “And I think that the political people know that they can. They just have to be brave enough. I think I can help push them to be brave enough.”
Voting day is Oct. 20.