For as long as we can remember, women have been talking with each other about the barriers and challenges faced while serving in local office. We have heard stories from the challenges of caregiving to devastating abuse.

We launched this research project to understand if this is “one bad apple” or system wide issues. We chose to speak with women and non-binary folks about their experiences in British Columbia and Alberta. Each province has different tools to address concerns and this would allow us to understand what is working.

It’s not enough to just name problems. We need to find solutions as well, and our role is to bring these recommendations to decision makers to make this experience better.

We want leadership in our communities that represent the diversity of its residents. In order to have this, we need local government structures that support people, are accessible and inclusive, and are not protecting some while harming others.

This project is a partnership between The Feminist Campaign School and Climate Caucus with a generous financial contribution from Women and Gender Equality Canada.

The Authors

Dr. Karen-Marie Elah Perry (they/them)

Karen-Marie Elah Perry is an applied anthropologist with a focus on social justice and the ways inequalities shape access to services. They have done applied research in policy, practice, and law for over two decades. This has included work with the Justice Institute of BC, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Hospital Employees’ Union, the North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI Study), BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner, the Canadian HIV Trials Network, and the Te’mexw Treaty Association, among others. Their experiences as a community organizer in Southern and Northern BC powerfully inform their approach to research. Karen-Marie is a recipient of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Doctoral Scholarship and has worked as an educator at the University of Victoria. Karen-Marie believes that research has the capacity to uplift women and gender minorities, including the fight for their equitable participation in local elected roles and more meaningful forms of democracy. Interested in research support for your own organization? Contact info@shiftresearchcollective.ca

Nadine Nakagawa (she/her)

Nadine Nakagawa is a community organizer and local activist based in the unceded territory of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ speaking people, colonially known as New Westminster. Prior to and during her time on New Westminster city council, Nadine has focused on issues relating to housing, public spaces, Reconciliation, and public engagement. She was first elected in 2018 and was re-elected in 2022. For her work in the community, Nadine was named the 2017 Citizen of the Year at the Chamber of Commerce Platinum Awards. She works as an equity and inclusion strategist, runs a campaign school for underrepresented people, and is a researcher on representation in local government. Nadine has a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. When not working on community projects, Nadine is a creative writer, gardener, and avid reader.

Trudi Goels (she/her)

Trudi is a community convener, organizer, and connector living on the unceded territory of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ speaking people, colonially known as New Westminster. She is active in trialing better forms of leadership as a co-chair at Women Transforming Cities, a grassroots non-profit based in Vancouver that works to build the participation and power of people historically excluded from civic processes; is a member of Feminists Deliver, a grassroots collaboration among diverse BC-based women and organizations; and is a co-founder of New West Women on Wednesdays. Her work and interests are in creating better systems to build communities where we all belong. She’s fueled by coffee, laughter, music, and shine theory, a practice of mutual investment. 

Manjot Bains (she/her)

Manjot Bains is a freelance writer and communications consultant who brings an anti-racist and decolonizing lens to her work at Digital Handloom,  an interdisciplinary storytelling and community engagement practice. Her work is rooted in community-based storytelling and relationship-building steeped in empathy and authenticity. In 2010, Manjot co-founded Jugni Style, an online magazine for South Asian arts, cultures, and ideas. As Editor-in-Chief, she produced the first two seasons of The Nameless Collective Podcast, which was featured on CBC Radio and in Walrus Magazine, Vancouver Magazine, and International Public History Journal. Manjot has spoken about systemic racism and representation for a number of panels, podcasts, and media conversations, and her 2019 essay on systemic racism was one of three stories from HuffPost Canada to win the RTDNA Canada Sam Ross Award for Opinion and Commentary in 2020.