VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Jamie Lee Hamilton, a controversial Vancouver activist, has died.
A Facebook post says Hamilton died early Monday morning while in hospice. She was a well-known advocate for sex workers and those living in poverty on the Downtown Eastside.
Longtime MP Libby Davies, a friend of Hamilton’s, says it’s a “sad day” to know she’s no longer with us.
“She’s just been like an icon in our city,” Davies tells NEWS 1130. “I’ve known her for, wow, gosh, probably close to 40 years, and I think what it really so important about Jamie Lee is that she never gave up on her advocacy for people, even during really tough times, when it wasn’t popular to advocate for the rights of sex workers in the Downtown Eastside or in the West End when she was fighting against the injunction that was taken out in the 1980s. I mean she goes so far back.”
Davies remembers a moment in 1998, when Hamilton dumped garbage bags full of high heeled shoes on the steps of city hall representing the sex workers believed to have been missing from the downtown Eastside.
It was part of an effort to get politicians to recognize there was a serial killer — a theory that ultimately came true in the following years with the conviction of Robert Pickton.
Hamilton ran for city council in the 1990s, and was the first openly transgender person to run for office in Canada.
“I think she might of even run against me once, I can’t remember,” Davies joked. “She was very active politically, but I think she has an endearing memory for people. She’s touched many people’s lives, so she’ll be someone who’ll be very much missed in our city.”
Tributes have been pouring in for Hamilton online, with many sharing fond memories of her.
“As a former park board commissioner and chair, I had many positive and wonderful conversations with JLH,” Ian Robertson writes on Twitter. “She was a strong and passionate advocate. RIP Jamie Lee.”
“Agree or disagree with her, she was a force to be reckoned with,” Chris Childs tweets. “She made a lot of people in Vancouver, especially those in authority, confront some uncomfortable questions.”