Stand against homophobia on the Vancouver School Board

Robin Perelle, writing for Xtra!, gives a good background on the swell of opposition to anti-homophobia policy in the lower mainland.

Basically, NPA trustees Ken Denike and Sophia Woo have been caught red-handed in videos lying to the Christian Social Concern Fellowship that Vancouver has no anti-homophobia policy, when in fact one was passed in 2004. They’ve also been trotting out the “parent’s rights” arguments, long used by the Christian Right who want the right to continue to keep their children as ignorant and biggoted as themselves.

Vancouver’s LGBTQ community isn’t taking this one lying down.

On Monday evening, the first Vancouver School Board meeting was held and a resolution was put forward calling on the VSB to reaffirm its support for the policy and to censure trutees Denike and Woo. The resolution passed with the strong Vision-COPE majority but the crowd was split between pro- and anti-gay protesters.

There is now a Facebook call for people to send letters to Denike, Woo, and VSB chair Patti Bacchus, calling for the NPA trustees to resign. Please consider sending this message (or a modified version) to the emails listed below.

Dear Trustees Woo and Denike,

You have failed in your position within the Vancouver School Board. You have infracted and abused your powers and position, and have tried to spread hate within our society.

-You have made many students feel unsafe and uncomfortable within their schools.
-Publicly disagreed with the ‘Anti Homophobia Policies’ that were put in place by VSB (2004)
-Accused the ‘Out in Schools’ program for showing pornographic images.
-Are closely related and in support with the Parents Voice Committee, Who are known for their Anti-Homosexual campaigns.

I do not support your actions and views on this issue. The messages you and your groups are spreading are inhumane and dishonest. I do not want people in my city to feel unsafe or unwanted, Vancouver is meant to be a city that accepts differences and respects culture and diversity.

Because of these actions you have taken, I am asking you to resign from your position as Trustee as you have failed to protect all the students within the school board.

ken.denike@vsb.bc.ca
sophia.woo@vsb.bc.ca
patti.bacchus@vsb.bc.ca

I guess until now atheists knew to keep their mouths shut in Surrey

Wow I love newspaper titles.

The South Fraser Unitarian Congregation was kind enough to send out a press release for my upcoming talk on humanism. Peace Arch News, based in White Rock, picked up the story under the headline “Atheist to speak in Newton.”

It’s a fine article, but does set the bar for all the things I need to explain:

Organizers say Ian Bushfield is to discuss how humanism…promotes living a good and moral life without the need for divine revelation.

Bushfield will also explain why humanists choose not to rely on immutable words and holy books, but instead find value and purpose in life through reason and science.

Of course, I think I wrote some of those words into the abstract that I sent along, so it may be my own fault.

For more information on the talk, check out the Unitarian’s website.

#vanelxn Debrief

It’s hard to believe that the election was an entire week ago. Luckily though I handed in my thesis on Friday, so regular blogging can resume again.

A lot has already been written about the Vancouver election, and I just thought I’d summarize my thoughts here quickly in a feature of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Good

The best news for me was the Burnaby Citizen’s Association’s sweep of everything. Derek Corrigan seems to know how to run a progressive city and has a competent team. While I wouldn’t normally be too concerned with how Burnaby was being run, it was very heartening to see Parents’ Voice and their homophobia be soundly rejected by the city. Good job.

Gregor Robertson soundly defeated Suzanne Anton. While there are legitimate criticisms of Robertson, Anton’s “common sense” platform was anything but. Furthermore, Robertson’s first moves after the election were to continue on his commitment to ending homelessness with the announcement of more homeless shelters.

It was also good to see a progressive majority. Vision handily won every seat they contested and will have little difficulty doing whatever they want in the next three years, which is generally positive for the city. The Vancouver School Board is definitely in good hands.

I was happy to see Adriane Carr make it in as Vancouver’s lone Green councillor. I won’t agree with everything she says, but her voice will provide a strong balance if Vision gets away from its roots.

Finally, it was good to see a strong showing by Sandy Garossino and Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver. While not close to winning, they did well for being outside the establishment, and represent a glimmer of hope for some progressive alternatives in the next election.

The Bad

COPE was badly defeated. We lost almost everything except for Alan Wong’s seat on the School Board. It’s not clear to me if we lost many votes or if more people just turned out and only voted for Vision. Clearly the COPE-Vision coalition will need to be questioned. This story is likely far from over.

Voter turnout, despite a slight increase, is still embarrassingly low. Two-in-three people don’t care about how their city is being run, and that’s sad.

The Ugly

The finger pointing started within hours of the election results.

Sean Bickerton criticized his party, the NPA, for running a nasty and bitter campaign. Others said they needed more bitterness.

Tim Louis quickly blamed the coalition deal and COPE’s leadership. David Cadman blamed Tim Louis for knocking him off the ballot. Others blamed the leadership for blocking Tim Louis with RJ Aquino. Some suggestions were made that Vision didn’t promote COPE enough (despite evidence to the contrary and the fact that it’s not their job). Almost no one has been willing to take any responsibility on their own. For my own part, I didn’t canvass nearly as much as I’d hoped. People need to start setting aside their egos and begin work figuring out the goals of COPE and how to accomplish them.

Ian votes in Vancouver

Because Saturday is municipal election day in Vancouver, it’s the week of announcing everyone’s slates, and I don’t intend to break that trend.

Before I state who I’ll be voting for in Vancouver, I want to highlight a couple other worthy candidates in the Lower Mainland.

I’m not too familiar with Burnaby’s politics, but Derek Corrigan’s Burnaby Citizens’ Association has kept Burnaby as one of the best run cities in Canada according to Maclean’s magazine. More importantly though, I strongly urge everyone in Burnaby to vote for the BCA slate for School Board to block any religious homophobic candidates from Parents’ Voice from getting elected. The anti-homophobic bullying policy they recently passed needs a strong voice to continue its implementation to ensure that LGBTQ students feel safe in their schools.

In New Westminster, Humanist Canada’s 2011 Humanist of the Year Lorrie Williams is standing for re-election to council. Vote for her.

Now, on to the main show.

Continue reading Ian votes in Vancouver

#ndpldr Peggy Nash in Vancouver

In my whirlwind tour last night, I first saw Paul Dewar before racing downtown to catch Peggy Nash’s meet and greet at the Railway Club.

While Dewar’s event was held in a large condo meeting room, a slightly larger crowd packed into the small backroom of the Railway Club (where Skeptics in the Pub downtown meets) to meet Nash. While Dewar’s event had pop, chips, veggies, cookies, and some leftover Halloween candy, Nash’s event had veggies and mini-sandwiches – a happy sight since I hadn’t had time to find dinner. Sadly it was still a cash bar, but I wouldn’t hold that against any candidate.

Venues and snacks aside, I still didn’t walk away from Nash’s event as impressed as I was with Dewar. I met a friend there and we were both a little underwhelmed with the buzz and feel-good fluff that composed most of her speech.

I re-listened to it again this morning and I think the above characterization is a bit harsh, but listen yourself:

Peggy Nash speech

I think she planned on taking more questions later in the evening, but I was getting a bit tired and the room was hot, noisy, and crowded, so I snuck off, had a beer, and went home.

Her speech focussed a lot on what we need to differently than Harper, specifically focussing on the economy, becoming the greenest country, and working together as a country. Proposals may come later, but after witnessing the winning policy-heavy campaigns of Naheed Nenshi and Alison Redford, it makes me long for something more substantive.

The final thing I’ll say about her event is that while she attracted an enthusiastic crowd of all ages, it was a very heterogeneous crowd – predominantly Caucasian. Perhaps this was due to the venue and location difference, but it was a bit striking.

Regardless, I haven’t written her off after last night, but I was much more impressed with Paul Dewar last night.

#ndpldr Paul Dewar in Vancouver

I should note first that Nathan Cullen, a BC MP and NDP leadership candidate will be meeting tonight at 5pm at The Greedy Pig on Cordova St. I’m still trying to decide if I’ll go or if I need a break from running between events. I have said a few words before about Cullen’s proposals.

After meeting Thomas Mulcair last week, last night I raced around Vancouver and got to meet NDP leadership candidates Paul Dewar and Peggy Nash. Last night was a busy evening as I ran from SFU in Burnaby to King Edward Village (at Knight and Kingsway) for a meeting with Paul Dewar to the Railway Club downtown for Peggy Nash’s event.

My best advice is that you shouldn’t try to do this. After each of these events I like time to sit and collect my thoughts and impressions about the candidate, but this time I was running from one event to the other and only just made it in time for Nash’s speech. Luckily, I grabbed a video of Dewar and the audio of Nash (the lighting in pubs is too poor for good video) so you and I can review their speeches today.

My initial impressions though are that Paul Dewar quite exceeded my expectations, while Peggy Nash was a bit underwhelming. Since I have quite a bit to say, I’ll cover Paul Dewar first and post about Peggy Nash’s event in a subsequent post.

This is perhaps mostly because I wasn’t sure what to expect from Dewar. I’ve never really heard him speak, and I had partially written him off after being disappointed by his religious views. Yet last night he came off smart, articulate, friendly, and focussed on issues. Unlike Thomas Mulcair who cruised the bar quickly, shaking hands but failing to really connect with anyone, Dewar seemed genuinely interested in everyone he spoke to.

When he spoke to issues about how to promote social democratic values, he talked about the need to promote positive policies that will prove that social democracy is good for the economy. His example, dear to my heart as a masters of science student, was our current (and arguably failing) approach of giving research tax credits to industry. He says we should instead be looking to places with better success, like the German model of investing in public research institutions.

He also suggested establishing a national green energy grid to get renewable electricity efficiently across the country. I could see some federal-provincial conflict here, but I think it’s better to be too visionary than too cautious here.

In the question and answers he was also asked about the Israel-Palestine issue. As foreign affairs critic, Dewar had little trouble establishing a firm and respectable position. He fully supports a two-state solution established peacefully. Canada’s role, he argued, was to start doing our parts again, and to act as a leader to other countries. By getting each country to do a little bit, he says the peace process will get moving again. Specifically, our part involves reinvesting in the UNRWA who help out on the ground in Palestine and by supporting refugee programs – both things Canada used to do.

He was also asked about growing the party, to which he didn’t just give platitudes about the grassroots, but called for more on the ground organizers, and constituency associations in every riding.

The event organizers basically had to cut him off from taking more questions, but he also answered a question about the Occupy protests. He says New Democrats get the protests and should fight not just for tax fairness, but tax justice. He ruled out any sales tax increases and promised to recover money from tax havens. He was also asked about his position on unions in the NDP, to which he said they are an important part as unions helped form the NDP, but that union values are also NDP values and that the NDP needs to fight for those rights (pensions, labour laws, etc.) for everyone. Finally, federal NDP candidate Meena Wong asked about how to increase diversity in the party, to which Dewar responded that we need to keep reaching out in the same way that Jack Layton and Olivia Chow reached out to her.

Also in the audience was Sheryl Palm, wife of MP Don Davies (who was in the air during the meeting). She said she hadn’t made up her mind, but lived so close to the event that it was worth checking out.

I will finally mention that the event had a very diverse audience with young and old, and a mix of ethnicities. It may have just been partially a function of the area, but it was definitely a promising mix.

Paul Dewar will be back in Vancouver on November 20th and will be speaking for my riding, Vancouver-Quadra at the NDP constituency association AGM.

Here’s the video of his speech:

Paul Dewar ALSO in Vancouver Thursday

For those who can’t get enough of NDP leadership candidates, Thursday looks like a good day to live in Vancouver.

I just found the Facebook event for Paul Dewar’s planned appearance at King Edward Village (Knight and Kingsway) at 5:30 PM.

This event is scheduled to wrap up just before Peggy Nash makes her appearance at the Railway Club downtown at 7:00 PM.

Nash has been tweeting from Occupy Vancouver and the CUPE meeting in town. I wonder if Dewar will be around either of those events.

Even more interesting would be to see Nash attend Dewar’s event and vice-versa. The relative attendance at each event ought to be a good early indicator of their support levels.

I’ll definitely attend Nash’s event (since I heard of it first and her campaign interests me more), but if I can make it work, I may try to attend both events. You can look forward to some updates on Friday.

Peggy Nash in Vancouver this Thursday

Vancouver will get another NDP leadership candidate through town this Thursday when Toronto MP and (former) Finance Critic Peggy Nash comes to town. Brian Topp has already visited once, Nathan Cullen announced his race here, and Thomas Mulcair was here last week.

She’ll be meeting up with people at the Railway Club downtown (Seymour and Dunsmuir) and I’ll try to get a recording of any speech she might give.

More details are available on Facebook.

Expected alliances

When I first heard that Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) was running just four candidates for city council it was pretty apparent that today’s news was coming.

At the COPE nomination meeting last month, there was an almost obvious tension between the COPE executive and Tim Louis’ supporters. Louis ended up bumping off incumbent councillor David Cadman, and has long been critical of the electoral alliance with Vision Vancouver.

Now, with NSV endorsing the COPE slate, those who have been disappointed with Gregor Robertson over the past few years have alternates for council and mayor, without endangering any COPE candidates. This even helps Adrienne Carr and the Greens, who are also likely to get an endorsement.

What complicates this even further is that NPA isn’t even running a full slate for Park or School Board (6/7 and 5/10 respectively), and NSV is only running for Council and Mayor. The Greens are only running one candidate for each of those positions.

A poll released last week suggests that almost anything could happen. The poll doesn’t include NSV or their mayoral candidate Randy Helten, so mayoral support splits 66-32 for Vision. The results for council are less clear, especially since they found 19% support for the Greens, while only 11% for COPE. The poll doesn’t list its sample size or margin of error, so it’s worth questioning some of the numbers.

It should be an interesting election.

Oh Georgia Straight, why do you publish such crap?

Sometimes I appreciate the local coverage that the Georgia Straight provides. They’re coverage of the Vancouver election is extensive, and they’ve provided pages for every school and parks board candidate so far to get their word out. Hell, they questioned Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts on whether she though George Bush should be arrested for torture.

But then they have a day when they put out a pair of articles like they did last Thursday.

Continue reading Oh Georgia Straight, why do you publish such crap?