British Columbia

Vancouver Coun. Rebecca Bligh resigns from NPA over board executive's anti-SOGI ties

Bligh, who identifies as queer, said she quit the party due to the anti-SOGI views of some of the newly elected executive on the NPA board.

'It was my duty as the only out queer woman on council to stand up for what's right,' she says

Vancouver city councillor Rebecca Bligh is pictured during a meeting at city hall in Vancouver, British Columbia on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Vancouver Coun. Rebecca Bligh has announced she's resigning from the Non-Partisan Association, but says she will remain on council as an independent.

In a written statement Friday evening, Bligh said she quit the NPA, which last held a majority in Vancouver in 2008, due to the anti-SOGI ties of some of the newly elected executive on the party's board.

"It was my duty as the only out queer woman on council to stand up for what's right," Bligh told CBC News.

SOGI is a provincial policy around sexual orientation and gender identity that promotes LGBTQ inclusivity in schools.

The policy includes giving students the right to self-identify using their choice of preferred pronoun and allowing students to use washrooms and change rooms that match their gender identity.

The province offers SOGI 123 lesson plans for schools to adopt, although trustees can vote against using them.

While the party's elected caucus members have championed SOGI efforts, Bligh said the NPA board has seen an "infiltration" of socially conservative views.

The new executives on the NPA's board of directors include secretary Ray Goldenchild and treasurer Phyllis Tang.

Both were endorsed by the socially conservative Let's Vote Association, which says it is pro-family, pro-life and pro-parental rights.

One of the board's directors is Christopher Wilson, who worked as the former B.C. bureau chief for the right-wing outlet Rebel Media between July 2016 and Dec. 2017, according to his LinkedIn page.

In one video, Wilson defended U.S. President Donald Trump's response to the 2018 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

NPA board vs. caucus

Bligh, who has two children with her female partner of 10 years, said she joined the NPA because she believes in non-partisan local government that is socially progressive and fiscally responsible.

"The NPA Party has historically represented these values and stood for inclusion," she wrote.

But Bligh said it became evident to her after the board's first meeting earlier this week that the executive had the board's full support. Board members and executives are granted terms of one to three years.

"We've got a lot of work to do between now and then," Bligh said. 

"I needed to make sure that this was not going to be a distraction and I could continue to represent the people of the city as I was elected to do."

Before Bligh's exit, the NPA held five of the 10 council seats.

Bligh stressed there's a clear line between the board and elected caucus members, which include city councillors Sarah Kirby-Yung, Lisa Dominato, Colleen Hardwick and Melissa De Genova, as well three school trustees and two park board commissioners.

NPA says it stands for inclusivity

The caucus threw its weight behind Bligh in a statement of support Friday evening. 

"The NPA Caucus members strive at all times to create a safe and inclusive city for all people. We will continue to stand for inclusivity and will strongly oppose anything that detracts from that objective," the statement read.

"We believe it is important for our Caucus to speak out with a strong, unequivocal voice and express our unyielding continued support for our LGBTQ2S+ community and SOGI 123."

Bligh said she called every elected official before announcing her resignation and was overwhelmed by their support.

Bligh now joins Mayor Kennedy Stewart as the only other independent on council.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story misidentified one of the candidates endorsed by the Let's Vote Association. In fact, the group endorsed Ray Goldenchild.
    Dec 07, 2019 6:41 PM PT

With files from Meera Bains

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