“A home is a democratic right.” – Jennifer O’Keeffe

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Jennifer O’Keeffe is an education and social-justice advocate, and COPE candidate for Vancouver City Council.

A recent graduate from Capilano University,  Jennifer O’Keeffe is a politically active community artist. At Capilano University she was a major force in advocating for transparency and the educational rights of students; she was a leading figure in organizing rallies and protests in an effort to halt program closures, and advocating for students’ right to graduate, as the administration at Capilano University simply abandoned those students whose programs were terminated and failed to provide all the prerequisite classes as per the University Act’s ‘teach-out’ policy.

She further spearheaded these efforts through aggressive Freedom of Information requests for administrative travel expenses, and compensation in efforts to attain institutional transparency.

In her further work to halt program closures, O’Keeffe relentlessly campaigned for Capilano students, working with Advanced Education Critic MLA David Eby in his efforts to expose corruption in the form of administrative over-payments at Cap. She also met with North Shore City Councillor Craig Keating, MLA Ralph Sultan, Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk and Premier Christy Clark during and after the 2013 provincial election in her attempts to have the administration at Capilano University respect and adhere to the University Act.

O’Keeffe is deeply concerned with the plight of Vancouver’s homeless and the larger issue – the lack of affordable housing in the city. She shares the fear of many of her generation, that actually being able to purchase a house will simply be financially unattainable. She is seriously concerned about the long-term ramifications this holds for not only students but young families just trying to scrape by. B.C. has the highest child poverty rate in Canada and Vancouver has the second highest child poverty rate compared with other cities in the country. B.C. students are graduating with highest level of student debt rate in Canada.

There is a major exodus occurring with this age demographic because of the inflated rental and housing costs, many young people are simply having to move further away in search of better prospects for affordable housing. This exodus has numerous negative ramifications for the economic future of the city, as the loss of young families constitutes the loss of both economic development and consumers. Neither families nor students should ever have to make a choice between paying the bills or putting food on the table!

O’Keeffe is committed to dealing with the affordable housing crisis, once elected the COPE council “will declare a state of emergencey to solve the affordable housing crisis”. There are a number of actions we will take to improve this situation: first and foremost, the COPE will make affordable housing an actual priority, rather than a mere election item; the COPE city council will, for example, assume the role of the developer instead of depending upon for-profit corporations to meet criteria for low-income housing; the COPE will explore zoning for affordable housing; and local rent-controls; the city will enforce the laws and by-laws already in place to force landlords and owners of rental properties to adhere to the health standards that are currently law; the city could – and should! – COPE will be innovative when it comes to what city lands and which city buildings might be utilized for housing right now; the city could engage neighbourhoods and communities to help find solutions, although this would only be useful if the city actually listened to and sought community–based solutions, otherwise such inclusion is nothing more than a facade.

It is paramount to bear in mind that what we view as ‘problems’ – such as homelessness and the greater issue of affordable housing – are, in fact, simply challenges and that the solutions to these challenges are neither mysterious, nor beyond our capabilities. All that is required is the desire to find solutions and the willingness to act.

 

 

Endorsements

 

“Jennifer is a recent graduate of the former Studio Art Program at Capilano University where I taught Drawing and Sculpture since 1990. In April of 2013 the university president Kris Bulcroft announced she had decided to suspend Studio Art, Textile Art and the Interactive Design programs. Her cuts were made illegally due to several non-consultative violations of process. Jennifer responded to these actions with a strategic continuous campaign that demonstrates her loyalty to her instructors, to education and to the consultative values that Capilano University was built on. She quickly became the most articulate activist at Capilano University. She dedicated her life to the restoration of lost programs and justice on campus, she advocated for a letter campaign, defended students who were not properly “taught-out” as promised by administration, organized multiple rallies and confronted administrations excess spending. Her knowledge of the inner workings of Administration exposed various discrepancies that can now be addressed on a provincial level. Jennifer’s advocacy was extraordinary and beyond the efforts of all but the most politically active union representatives and employees affected by the cuts.

Jennifer’s actions over the past 16 months demonstrate her skill and commitment to social values, education and transparency of political process. Her determination and patience are attributes I’d like to see in emerging COPE representatives, and I strongly recommend her for this role.”  – George Rammell – Former Instructor/ Studio Art Department, Capilano University

 “I wholeheartedly endorse Jenny for COPE.

Jennifer is an unusually bright young person. I’ve known her as a student in my Drawing & Painting classes in the Studio Art Program at Capilano University. Jenny was an excellent student – always one of the best, most industrious students in the program and I expected the best from her given her natural artistic acumen and her strong work ethic. Her dedication to her artistic practice and studies would ordinarily be enough of an endorsement for anyone – but this is not the main reason that I’m endorsing Jenny – I’m endorsing Jennifer because of her extraordinary sense of Public Good and her sense of protection of the Public Realm. As you know, Capilano University shut down the Studio Art program along with many other community based programs in the university. Many students and instructors gave in. Jennifer fought back! Jennifer continues to fight back. She has a very strong sense of social justice and she stands out in her fight against corrupt administrators in our University system. You will be happy to have her on your team.

“We need people of integrity like Jennifer.”

Marcus Bowcott – Painting instructor Capilano University