COPE apologizes for blowing it for Indigenous candidate

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The Coalition of Progressive Electors party (COPE) broke out the Jeanex this week, releasing an interesting apology in the form of an open letter.

Admitting they offered “insufficient support” to one of their two School Board candidates, Diana Day, the letter reveals that they openly broke multiple promises made to her leading up to the last municipal election.

Day lost by less than 1,000 votes. She would have been the first Indigenous woman to ever have a seat on our School Board.

This past election was the third time they’ve convinced her to run, and all of their attempts to get her elected have been unsuccessful. Detailing exactly how they feel they royally blew it for her this time around, they also note that the delay in apologizing to her a full 7 months after the election was “deplorable”. They make a promise to do better for Indigenous candidates going forward.

You can read the entire letter below.

COPE School Board candidate Diana Day. Photo via COPE

May 21st, 2019

Dear Diana Day,

We write this letter to offer a sincere apology for our insufficient support during the 2018 campaign. On behalf of COPE, we regret our actions and inactions and renew our commitment to working with you for a more just and equitable future.

We offer some further thoughts for you, and for our membership as to why this apology is so necessary.

To our members: Diana Day is an Indigenous First Nations woman from the Oneida Nation, one of the members of the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. She is the Lead Matriarch and program coordinator at the Pacific Association of First Nation Women, and a past co-chair of the Vancouver School Board District.

Diana is a passionate advocate for a culturally-safe environment for students and a promoter of Indigenous culture in schools. If elected, she would have been even more powerful in combating stereotypes and creating anti-racism policies in schools. As a single parent working full-time and an Indigenous woman, Diana knows first-hand the struggles students and families face on a daily basis while trying to succeed in the Vancouver School Board system.

To Diana: we were honoured to have you as our candidate to the Vancouver School Board in three elections and we lament profoundly that we failed to support you adequately. As a consequence, we also lament not having you as an advocate for the rights of Indigenous and other students as a member of the School Board.

The Coalition was unable to secure you the promised endorsement from the local labour council prior to the election campaign. This was a critical moment. Without this crucial endorsement you lost a significant number of votes that would certainly have made the difference in gaining a seat on the Vancouver School Board. COPE could have taken a number of actions to support your candidacy; however, we were ineffective in taking immediate and decisive actions.

For example:

– We did not effectively implement a dedicated focus on getting you elected
– No extra financial resources were allocated to provide the needed support.
– Campaign management did not produce a strategic response to secure additional endorsements for your campaign.
– Press releases, leaflets, phone scripts, online endorsements and media advisories were inadequate or delayed.
– A promised professional video was not produced.
– No staff member was assigned to support you in this critical moment.
– Attempts to organize a substantial number of rank-and-file endorsements and publicize them effectively were not sufficiently supported.

These critical mistakes demonstrated that we did not anticipate nor understood the unequal ground and disadvantages that Indigenous candidates confront. We credit our membership for presenting a motion to address this failure. Unfortunately, our learning comes with a very high cost and injury to you.

In order to move forward we sincerely commit to:

– Educating the executive and the membership on the effects of centuries of colonial oppression suffered by Indigenous peoples.
– Creating a campaign fund dedicated to the election of future COPE Indigenous candidates.
– Addressing the issues that led to a lack of labour movement support for you.
– Continuing to promote diversity in COPE and to empower Indigenous people and people of colour.
– Learning from our mistakes and preparing efficiently to support future indigenous candidates.

We do not yet know the full extent of actions that we must take. We remain humble and committed to learn.

We acknowledge the history of residential schools, loss of land and resources, the Indian act, the sixties scoop, foster care scoop and racist colonial educational system which caused devastating harm on Indigenous families, culture, heritage and language. We also call on Federal, Provincial, Territorial, and Municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation. Furthermore, we call on them to implement the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commision.

In 1972, COPE fielded its first mayoral candidate, Angie Todd Dennis, who was the first Indigenous woman to be nominated for political office in Vancouver. Angie declared that “if you were an Indian you were bound to become involved in politics to fight for yourself.” As Angie was, Diana, you have been an extraordinary fighter, empowering others with your example.

Today, on behalf of COPE, we apologize for failing to adequately support your campaign for School Board and for the deplorable delay in our response. In making this apology, we have sought to understand the depth of our involvement, and the nature of the actions we commit to today.

We hope you accept our apology and agree to continue working together for a more diverse, equitable, and humane society.

Co-chairs Nancy Trigueros & Rider Cooey
& The Executive of the Coalition of Progressive Electors

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