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Vision Park Board Candidate Trish Kelly Withdraws From the Race

Trish Kelly

(Update: Read Demand That Trish Kelly Be Reinstated to Vision's PB Slate)

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On Thursday afternoon, Vision Vancouver Park Board candidate Trish Kelly made the very difficult decision to withdraw her bid for elected office.

Ostensibly, according to community buzz on social media, Ms. Kelly chose to drop out of the race for Park Board, resultant from a "shaming" campaign that it is alleged VanRamblings had commenced earlier this week, with the July 14th publication of a blog post on VanRamblings.

Ms. Kelly is quoted in the July 17, 2014 press release issued at 4:02pm by Vision Vancouver ...

"After 25 years of serving my community, I put my name forward as a Park Board nominee to move my life as a community activist fighting for social justice issues, to claiming a seat at the decision-making table. Unfortunately, my work in theatre and as a sex-positive activist is being sensationalized — and will clearly continue to be distracting from my efforts in the community and in the election campaign," said Trish Kelly.

"I have never hidden from this work. I hold no shame nor regret for the work I have produced," continued Kelly. "I have dedicated, and will continue to dedicate, much of my life to contributing to my community, to having difficult conversations, and to making myself vulnerable in order to make space for others."

I sincerely regret that Ms. Kelly has chosen to withdraw from what was certain to be a very difficult campaign for office for Vision Vancouver this autumn electoral season. I could not reasonably have expected, or imagined, nor did I wish for Ms. Kelly to withdraw from the Park Board race.

In laying out the next four months of VanRamblings posts, I had at least three posts that were to be published regarding Ms. Kelly's appropriateness for office, each one of which would be explicity supportive of her candidacy.

I anticipated endorsing Ms. Kelly, as I will current Vision Vancouver Park Board Commissioner Trevor Loke, because I think it is crucial that there are strong, reasoned and passionate voices on Park Board who are committed to advocating for the early implementation of the recently-approved Park Board Trans and Gender Variant Inclusion Policy. I believe that Trish Kelly would be a key advocate for moving the policy forward — hers was, and is, a powerful voice, on this very important issue. Ms. Kelly's withdrawal from the Park Board campaign race may jeopardize early implementation of the policy, and under no circumstance would I — nor would many, many other members of our community — wish that to be the case.

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Perhaps you haven't read the VanRamblings post that in having gone viral has caused so much consternation in the community — you should. And, please, read past the inflammatory title, into the actual content of the post.

In making the decision to make the video available to the general public, and voting electorate of Vancouver, as I suggest in the post, I deliberated on "the morality and appropriateness" of publishing the video.

Finally, in the hours and minutes prior to the publication of the post, and Ms. Kelly's — as I say in the post, "entirely necessary" — video, I asked myself the question ...

If the Toronto Star were to be provided with a copy of a potentially controversial video of a top vote-getting candidate for civic office, would The Star act as a gatekeeper of such 'news', and forego the public interest in keeping the video to themselves, and therefore out of the public debate?

The answer was clear: in the interests of openness and transparency, and in the public interest, The Star would run with the video.

Thus, early on Monday morning — under the fair use provisions of Canadian copyright law — the post first appeared on VanRamblings.

Since publication, my many detractors on social media, and elsewhere, have called into question my integrity, my ethics, my commitment to social justice, and my humanity, one commenter on Facebook writing about ...

" ... the tripe that passes for prose in this sad little blog post ... I unfortunately live in South Surrey and can't vote for Ms. Kelly. But if she would pledge to introduce a bylaw banning VanRamblings I would happily organize friends and family to vote for her."

The comment above is one of the kinder things that have been written about me in recent days, and the worthiness of VanRamblings. You will find a sampling of social media commentary at the end of today's post.

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Knowing of my penchant for writing at length, in recently commencing coverage of the upcoming Vancouver municipal election race, I made a conscious decision to keep the posts short and, wherever possible, pithy.

Not today.

I am a feminist. There is no more important issue to which I have dedicated my life than support of the women in my life, the promotion of women's rights, and the realization of an utterly safe and productive environment for all women and children, here and elsewhere across the globe.

The untoward suggestions that have been made about my character, and the notion that in publishing the "offending" July 14th post I, in any way, meant to shame, cause injury, or sought to inhibit Ms. Kelly's campaign for elected office, are anathema to the core beliefs that are fundamental to the way I have brought myself to the world, and the struggle in which I have engaged all of my adult life to promote the fair treatment of women.

I have a daughter who I love with my whole heart, who as a young girl was raised with feminist values that were incorporated into the very fibre of her being — an education on the role of women that was valiantly supported by her mother, who is among the strongest women I have ever known.

I say "among" because my daughter is the toughest-minded, the strongest, the most socially-conscious activist woman I have ever met, and she has been so from the youngest age, through her PhD, and beyond. There is no one of whom I am more proud — Megan's life, and how she brings herself to the world, is fundamental to hers, her mother's and my core principles on the absolute necessity of a more just world for women.

The notion that I set about to hurt Trish Kelly is akin to suggesting that I would hurt my daughter, or the women I love — such a notion is abhorrent.

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In the pre-feminist days of the 1970s (yes, Betty Friedan had published the seminal feminist text The Feminine Mystique in 1963, and Simone de Beauvoir was an activist feminist writer from an earlier age, as was anarchist political activist Emma Goldman), in the days before the 1972 publication of Gloria Steinem and Letty Cottin Pogrebin's Ms. Magazine — which gave popular voice to the notion of women's equality and women's rights (yes, for you younger folks, there was actually a pre-feminist era when all that is now taken for granted was but a fairy dust dream) — Cathy, my once and forever beloved, and mother to our daughter — would each Wednesday meet with other women in a "women's consciousness raising" group.

During the course of those consciousness raising sessions, my job was to remain at home, to cook, to clean, but most importantly, to set about working with Cathy to create the conditions for a relationship that would be based on equality of opportunity and circumstance.

Throughout the early 1970s, Cathy and I picketed the aboriginal restaurant on Davie, whose Swedish flight attendant owners discriminated against and exploited their aboriginal female staff. Cathy and I would drive down from the Interior, where I was teaching and Cathy was working for the Ministry of Human Resources, to join the picket line at Bimini's on West 4th, when the owners refused to negotiate a first contract for their largely female staff.

As the first paid 'Co-ordinator' / Executive Director of the Tillicum / Fed-up Food Co-operatives, the realization of a workplace based on equality was central to the work I took on. In another post, I will write about my work with a pioneering group of lesbian feminist women — an activist adventure that was among the most satisfying political experiences of my life.

As an editor at the Peak newspaper, at Simon Fraser University, I wrote searing essays that resulted in the realization of The Association of University and College Employees Union, a union mainly composed of women, and from then on the negotiation of a first contract. Those essays also served to create the conditions to break the "glass ceiling" that then existed — where women were assigned to the "menial work" (when we all know such work is hardly menial), and never provided the opportunity for advancement — in the end, after months of activist advocacy writing, several men resigned their senior administrative posts, and in every case an able woman was promoted to take the place of her former boss.

In 1973, arising from my work with an activist NDP government in creating Student Employment Offices at post-secondary institutions across the province, rather than place myself in a senior administrative position, I took on the job of secretary — because, again, as we all know that is where the "real work" takes place, the typing of letters, the answering of phone calls, the arranging of schedules, the creation of a filing system, and all that goes into running an efficient and productive office.

In the latter half of the 1970s, as an activist BCTF Learning and Working Conditions Chairperson, support and promotion of the women with whom I worked was central to the work I took on. I consistently refused offered posts that would have enhanced my career, in favour of ensuring that a woman would be placed in that post. In my time as an L&WC Chair, I worked with Linda Shuto at the BCTF, as she set about to create the first Status of Women office in any non-governmental agency on the continent.

In 1977, I led a movement — later taken on by the BCTF, the BC School Trustees Association, and finally the provincial government — to ensure that women kindergarten teachers would not have to suffer classes of 30 or more, as the school district set about, as it was finally determined, to abrogate the Schools Act. In the end, the senior administration of the school district had their employment terminated for cause, and the School Board was placed into trusteeship, as the provincial government set about to establish a new, more just formation of that Interior school district.

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And finally, for now, allow me to tell you about the single most rewarding activist venture in which I was engaged this past decade.

Hired as the IT person at First Student Bus Lines, I was called into a meeting with staff early one 2004 September morning, where all bus drivers and attendants were informed by management that henceforth the hourly wage of $10 - $12 would be converted into a contract wage of $36.25 for a 12-hour, or longer, day. School bus drivers and attendants are not covered under existing labour legislation in the province — leaving the employer to demand of their largely recent-immigrant women staff virtual serfdom.

Over a period of 12 sleepless days, working with an incredibly vital core organizing group of, mostly, women, over 80% of the near catatonic with fear employees signed Union membership cards, and voted to form a bargaining unit. With the support of CUPE, and Union Local President Dave Ginter, after an arduous 8-month fight at the Labour Relations Board, a first contract was negotiated, and wages rose to fairly reflect the work that was taken on by the First Student employees. Noel Herron, then a COPE trustee on the Vancouver School Board, played a continuing pivotal role in support of the fight for social justice that had been taken on by the brave women and men who, working together, changed the conditions of their lives, and the lives of those women and men who were to follow.

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Among the many suggestions that have been made about me on social media is that I have become a reactionary, that any values that I have held true throughout the near 64 years of my life have been somehow abandoned, that my seeming recent "support" for the Non-Partisan Association, and what I would hope would be a salutary role for the party in the upcoming civic electoral race, bespeaks a betrayal of values so horrendous as to cause many to, as I say at the outset of today's post, question my integrity, my commitment to social justice, and my humanity.

No comments have cut me deeper than those seemingly sanctioned by former Seven Oaks and editor Derrick O'Keefe, whom I have known for a very long time, and who I have long held in the highest regard.

Derrick O'Keefe weighs in on Raymond Tomlin's fitness to breathe the same air as him

It's one thing to have become persona non grata, it is quite another and more distasteful thing to be bullied and piled up on, and to have one's activist commitment questioned — all without so much courtesy as a telephone call, an e-mail, an opportunity to get together over coffee, or a walk along a tree-lined street, where a person I have long considered to be a friend might clarify what is, from what is supposed.

Have I become so vile a character in the eyes of many that they would deny my very humanity, my right to breathe the same air, much less work in concert with them toward the realization of a better, more just world?

For the record, I am the same person now as I have been always throughout the entirety of my adult life: a feminist, a Bakuninist anarchist, and a grassroots community activist engaged in the — sometimes it seems to me — endless struggle for social justice, someone who doesn't just talk, but acts, every waking hour of every day, for the past 50 years — from the time I worked on my first NDP campaign for Vancouver East MP Harold Winch in 1964, to the present, and with every breath I will take in my remaining years on this earth through until the end, and I am no more.

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Fiona Hughes

String him up, hang him high


Michael Stewart

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at July 18, 2014 5:54 AM in VanRamblings


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