Local activist Lyra Evans committed to housing first approach, mental health programs

On March 25, 2018, the New Democratic Party (NDP) nominated an openly transgender candidate for the first time in provincial history. At the centre of this milestone is Lyra Evans, a current student at the University of Ottawa who was nominated as the party’s candidate for the Ottawa-Vanier ward.

Evans has been a student at the U of O since September 2016, but she has currently first-year standing in the chemistry program with a focus in battery chemistry. She says her motivation for changing programs to pursue chemistry is because she believes that the climate crisis is going to be the defining problem of our generation.

Evans says that it’s her community work and involvement that encouraged her to try her hand at politics.

“I made the decision to transition from activism and community-based organizing to politics, because I was appalled at the way the homeless are being treated,” she said.

“I believe the province needs to stop funding mega-shelters, and start properly fund the housing first model that has been proven to work in cities around the world, and fund mental health and addictions care to help those who are struggling.”

Although the NDP and Evans have garnered a lot of media attention for the historical nomination, Evans says she is “a mix of disappointed and honoured.”

“Disappointed that it took this long for there to be a trans candidate. But I am honored to be the first openly trans candidate for a major party in the history of Ontario. Growing up I didn’t have any role models in politics or leadership roles who were people like me, and I hope to inspire young people who are currently looking out for people like them.”

Although she is appreciative that people are taking note of her due to her gender, because it provides her with a platform to talk about issues that she is passionate about, she says her goal is “to show folks I have issues I care about beyond LGBTQ+ issues.”

Evans says that she hopes to be known for her progressive policies around housing and healthcare, and also hopes to gain a reputation as someone who fights for the rights of students.

Evans feels she is qualified for the job because she has spent her entire adult life fighting for changes in these same social arenas.

“I have done nearly a decade of homelessness activism, years of LGBTQ+ community organizing, and worked with others on empowering women movements, and harm reduction approaches to sex ed,” she said.

“I believe that my experiences as a community organizer, as a person with an understanding of science, and as a formerly homeless person give me great insight into how to fix some of the problems society is currently facing.”

But above all, she hopes to be known for being the first NDP member to ever be elected to Ottawa Vanier.

“For parents who can’t afford to work, because the cost of having someone else take care of their kids is too high. For all the people who have historically been left out of politics.”