Jamie Lee Hamilton

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Jamie Lee Hamilton
OccupationPolitician and advocate
Known forBecoming the first openly transgender person ever to run for political office in Canada
Notable work
The board of directors of the Greater Vancouver Native Cultural Society; Guest lecturer in Women's and Gender Studies at the University of British Columbia and in Humanities at Capilano College

Jamie Lee Hamilton (born September 20, 1955 in Vancouver, British Columbia) is a Canadian politician and advocate of aboriginal people, residents of the city's poverty-stricken Downtown Eastside, and sex trade workers. She was an independent candidate for the publicly elected Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation in the city's 2008 municipal election, after being controversially blocked from running on the Non-Partisan Association ticket.[1]

She previously ran for Vancouver City Council in 1996, becoming the first openly transgender person ever to run for political office in Canada.[2]

Hamilton is also a writer, entertainer, and guest lecturer in Women's and Gender Studies at the University of British Columbia and in Humanities at Capilano College. She is working on a research project at UBC, "The Expulsion of Sex Workers from Vancouver's West End, 1975–1985", as she was one of those expelled by the court ruling.

She currently serves on the board of directors of the Greater Vancouver Native Cultural Society, which has served the aboriginal two-spirited community since 1978. Hamilton is a lifelong resident of the Downtown Eastside and Strathcona neighborhoods of Vancouver.

Early life[edit]

Jamie Lee Hamilton was the child of Ralph Hamilton and Alice Hamilton. Ralph was an immigrant from Washington State, with Irish roots, who championed the unity of Ireland and Northern Ireland. He was a union organizer with the Foundry Workers' Union.

Alice was from the Rocky Boy Band (Montana, USA) and became a leader of the aboriginal community in Vancouver.[3] She was a founder of the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre in 1954. She was a cannery worker and member of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union (UFAWU). She was one of the Militant Mothers of Raymur who blockaded the Burlington Northern Railway tracks to demand an overpass for the children of Raymur housing project to attend school.

In 1967, Hamilton's parents co-founded the Unemployed Citizens Welfare Improvement Council (UCWIC) along with later-to-be Member of Parliament Margaret Anne Mitchell, tenants advocate Margaret Ellen Mitchell, and others. They also were among the first members of the Downtown Eastside Residents' Association (DERA).

Hamilton attended Lord Strathcona Elementary School, Britannia Secondary School, and Capilano College. In 1968, in the Moccasin for Miles, she walked from Vancouver to Hope. Beginning in her youth, Hamilton worked in the sex trade, transitioned to female, and became a strident advocate of the various communities of which she is a member. In 1970, she was the first youth to be treated in Canada for gender identity disorder. Her pioneering doctor was William Maurice of the Health Sciences Centre, University of British Columbia.

Achievements and awards[edit]

  • Various positions, Downtown Eastside Residents Association (DERA), 1984–2004.
  • Organizer, DERA demonstrations at inner-city hotels which were evicting long-term tenants in favour of Expo '86 tourists, 1986.
  • Founding member, Coalition for Responsible Health Legislation, a group initiated in response to the push by the Socred government of British Columbia to quarantine gay males with AIDS, 1987.
  • Founder, George Ross Scholarship Fund, Greater Vancouver Native Cultural Society; Vancouver, BC; 1988.
  • Tenth elected Native Princess, Greater Vancouver Native Cultural Society, 1988.
  • Organizer and founding president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) sublocal 15 at the Richmond Society of Community Living, c.1988. The union remains there.
  • Walk for Life, annual AIDS Walkathon, 1991: paid co-ordinator of volunteers; Vancouver, BC.
  • XI elected Ms. Gay Vancouver, 1991. While reigning, performed with the New York traveling cast of A Chorus Line.
  • Founder of the Hot Meal Programme and Food Bank for transsexual sex trade workers, First United Church, Vancouver, BC; 1993.
  • Proprietor, Rainbow's End, a clothing boutique, food bank, and drop-in for sex workers and others in the Downtown Eastside, 1993–1997.
  • Helped found the Four Corners Bank to assist people in the Downtown Eastside, 1994.
  • First transsexual to stand for public office in Canada, for Vancouver City Council, 1996.[2] She came in 14th out of 58, with the first 10 being elected.[4]
  • Community Hero Award, Xtra West newspaper; Vancouver, BC; 1996.[5]
  • Founder, the 9 to 5 Working Society, which operated Grandma's House, a safe sanctuary for street-involved women; Vancouver, BC; 1997.[6]
  • Prominent leader in the campaign attracting international attention to shame the authorities into investigating the 67 missing women from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, 1998 to present. Media attention focused on her act of dumping 67 pairs of stiletto shoes on the steps of Vancouver City Hall. So far, Robert "Willie" Pickton has been convicted of murdering six of them. See articles "Twenty women missing, action demanded"[7] and "Too many shoes"[8][9]
  • Keynote speaker at Resolutions and Ruptures: Sexual and Gender Diversity and the Spaces In-Between conference, University of British Columbia; 2004.
  • A leader of the successful "No Trademark Campaign" opposing trademarking the word "pride"; 2006.[10]
  • Invited presenter, Canadian parliamentary subcommittee on solicitation; Vancouver, BC; 2006.[11]
  • In March 2016 she spoke at the First Chair in Trans Studies International conference as part of the esteemed Founders Panel.
  • In September 2016, she co-founded with Becki Ross Canada's first Sex Workers Memorial, which is at Pendrell and Jervis streets in the West End neighborhood of Vancouver, BC. Officially supported by the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Department, this monument is the culmination of 9 years of lobbying, gathering research from the late 1960s to 1984, writing a number of op-eds, presenting academic articles, hosting forums and showcasing the award-winning documentary Hookers on Davie.


Ms. Hamilton has been a somewhat controversial figure. Back in 2000 she was charged with running a common bawdy house when it was revealed she allowed some prostitutes to use an East End property as a brothel/safe house – charging them $15 per visit to cover expenses. Those charges were stayed. And a year later, The Vancouver Sun reported Ms. Hamilton used money from her government-funded drop-in centre to help finance her city council campaign in 1999. At the time, Ms. Hamilton said her campaign would repay some of those expenditures – which had been approved by the drop-in centre's board of directors.[12]

In August 2008, Ms. Hamilton was preparing a human rights complaint against the Non-Partisan Association, the city's governing party,[13] after it rejected her as a parks board candidate, which she alleges was due to an ad she had placed on ShemaleCanada.com, an online meeting place for transsexuals.[14] This account conflicted with the NPA board's own explanation, stating explicitly that neither her gender identity nor her work in the sex trade were factors in her suitability for candidacy.[15] In explaining the decision, NPA President Ned Pottinger stated: "We look at all aspects of a candidate—what they’ve been involved in politically, how they’ve represented themselves, and how they present themselves to us, what we get back from people who we’ve worked with in the past. We look at how they will interact with our team, our campaign messages, and we make a decision based on that." [15]

Her complaint was supported by a number of prominent local figures, including former NPA city councillor Alan Herbert, Little Sister's founder Jim Deva and incumbent park commissioners Loretta Woodcock and Spencer Herbert.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Jamie Lee Hamilton calls Peter Ladner a "closeted Republican", Georgia Straight, September 2, 2008.
  2. ^ a b Peace River Block News Dawson Creek, BC; 1995 December 15, page 8.
  3. ^ Mirror Strathcona Community News, Vancouver, BC; 1977 September 22, pages 4 and 5)
  4. ^ City of Vancouver, BC, official Web publication "1996 Local General Election Results: COUNCILLORS" http://www.city.vancouver.bc.ca/ctyclerk/election96/96results/council.htm
  5. ^ Xtra West newspaper, 1996 December 26, pages 1 and 15.
  6. ^ "Hooker history" Georgia Straight Newspaper, 2000 November 2, page 21.
  7. ^ Vancouver Sun by David Hogben and Lindsay Kines .
  8. ^ Angles newspaper, Vancouver, BC; 1998 March, page 1 photo by John Kozachenko, caption in masthead, inside page 1, column 1.
  9. ^ Vancouver Courier, 2004 October 10.
  10. ^ "Battling for Pride: PRIDE / VPS tells community member she can't call it" by Jeremy Hainsworth; Xtra West newspaper, July 19, 2006. http://www.xtra.ca/public/viewstory.aspx?AFF_TYPE=4&STORY_ID=1899&PUB_TEMPLATE_ID=2
  11. ^ House of Commons, Subcommittee on Solicitation Laws, "The challenge of change: a study of Canada’s criminal prostitution laws: report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights" (Ottawa: Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights). http://cmte.parl.gc.ca/Content/HOC/committee/381/sslr/evidence/ev1720317/sslrev17-e.htm#Int-1191816
  12. ^ http://www.publiceyeonline.com/archives/000785.html Archived February 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ The Canadian Press (2008-08-31). "Transsexual says Vancouver civic party rejected her over sex issues – British Columbia – CBC News". Cbc.ca. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
  14. ^ Smith, Charlie (2008-04-14). "Jamie Lee Hamilton eyes a seat on park board | Georgia Straight". Straight.com. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
  15. ^ a b Smith, Charlie (2008-09-03). "NPA riles Jamie Lee Hamilton's friends | Georgia Straight". Straight.com. Archived from the original on 2012-03-07. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
  • "An Interview with Jamie Lee Hamilton" by Matt Hern, Crank journal, Vancouver, BC; 2001 September, issue number 1, pages 39–43, 65.
  • "Jamie Lee Hamilton: Sex Trade Worker Advocate" interview by Day Helesic, SubTerrain journal, Vancouver, BC; 2001 November, issue number 32, pages 35 to 37.

Further reading[edit]

  • Daniel, Barb (2004). She's no lady : the biography of Jamie Lee Hamilton. Toronto: Cormorant Books. ISBN 9781896951690.

External links[edit]