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NPA politicians demand AGM as controversy swirls with board

Call for annual general meeting comes as director’s past actions questioned
councilcommentary
NPA politicians, including Coun. Melissa De Genova, called Thursday for an annual general meeting to be held immediately in light of controversy swirling around its board of directors. File photo Dan Toulgoet
Nine elected officials from the Vancouver Non-Partisan Association issued a statement Thursday calling on its board of directors to immediately hold an annual general meeting.

The statement didn’t elaborate on the urgency of the politicians’ demand, but it comes one week after Melanie Green of The Tyee posted a story that revealed Angelo Isidorou, now an NPA director, posed for photos in 2017 at a pro-Trump rally in Vancouver.

A photograph accompanying the story shows Isidorou wearing a red Make America Great Again baseball cap and flashing a hand gesture associated with "white power" extremists.

The first sentence in the statement from the caucus of four city councillors, three school trustees and two park board commissioners said it believes in “an inclusive, compassionate and caring city free from hate, stigma and discrimination.”

The caucus is comprised of Melissa De Genova, Colleen Hardwick, Sarah Kirby-Yung, Lisa Dominato, Fraser Ballantyne, Carmen Cho, Oliver Hanson, Tricia Barker and John Coupar, who have not spoken to media about the controversy swirling around the board.

“We are calling on the board to hold an [annual general meeting] immediately,” the statement said. “The board must reflect the values of the elected caucus, long held ideals of the organization, membership and the diversity of our city and residents.”

The statement concluded that an annual general meeting would allow the politicians to focus on their role as public representatives serving Vancouver residents, while the board maintains internal administration of the NPA.

On Wednesday, the NPA board issued a statement criticizing The Tyee story, as well as reports from Vancouver Sun reporter Dan Fumano, who has tracked the change in directors and their past connections to right-wing politics.

The Tyee and Fumano have since both challenged the board’s criticisms in follow-up articles to identify factual errors, which the party hasn’t.

The board’s statement said it was “proud to be associated with someone like Angelo Isidorou, who has a documented history of fighting against racism with political organizations, rather than paying lip service as so many of our critics.”

NPA president David Mawhinney was listed as the contact for the release, but had not replied to Glacier Media before this story was posted. Mawhinney didn’t respond last July to Glacier Media after four board members resigned from the party.

Jane Frost, Corey Sue, Ginny Richards and Marie Rogers listed a litany of concerns in their resignation letter to Mawhinney and accused the party of becoming irrelevant.

“The current NPA board lacks enthusiasm and energy to add their voices about the important issues under discussion in our community,” the letter said.

“These past four months, while the city has gone through unprecedented upheaval, the NPA board’s voice has been silent and unremarkable. It is beyond frustrating. It is inexcusable. It renders the party irrelevant.”

The party’s board was the subject of controversy in December 2019 after Coun. Rebecca Bligh resigned from the NPA to sit as an independent. At the time, Bligh said she had concerns the party had an affiliation with the anti-SOGI movement.

SOGI stands for sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s a term often associated with school curriculum. Its main tenet is inclusion of LGBTQ students.

“I stand for inclusion — no matter what, and there’s no debate around it,” Bligh told Glacier Media at the time. “It’s a matter of integrity for me and my family values. I’m a queer woman. My own lifestyle, my own identity feels called into question.”

Bligh accused party of shifting to the far right of the political spectrum, pointing to the addition of board member Christopher Wilson, a former bureau chief of the far-right Rebel Media founded by Ezra Levant.

Wilson is the same person who called former federal environment minister Catherine McKenna “Climate Barbie,” which Bligh described as a misogynistic comment. Bligh also said the party’s treasurer, Phyllis Tang, has or had an affiliation with the anti-SOGI movement.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, a former NDP MP who successfully ran for mayor in 2018 as an independent, posted a statement on Twitter Thursday regarding the controversy connected to the board.

Stewart, who is seeking re-election in 2022 and expected to face a serious challenge from an NPA candidate, accused "NPA leaders" of failing to stop hate spreading within their party.

"These extreme individuals will choose who stands as candidates for the NPA in the next election, the election platform and from whom they accept donations," the mayor said. "These extremely disturbing developments cannot be met with silence and must be fully condemned by all of us, including NPA members and leaders."

mhowell@glaciermedia.ca

@Howellings