Swapping of Chinese apology forum for party upsets group
Meena Wong, Civic Engagement Network spokesperson in Vancouver on Thursday January 30, 2014. (CARMINE MARINELLI, 24 HOURS)
We will treat every submission equally and come out with a report — Multiculturalism Minister Teresa Wat
A local organization is demanding a public consultation for the upcoming apology to the Chinese community be held again, alleging a move to reschedule the event to accommodate a BC Liberal reception resulted in some people not being able to speak.
The Richmond forum, initially scheduled for Jan. 28, was rescheduled to take place a day earlier so Multiculturalism Minister Teresa Wat and others could attend a Lunar New Year reception held by the BC Liberals attended by the premier.
A notification about the date change was issued Jan. 14.
Wat said the government-sponsored apology consultation meeting, the final one of seven forums held around the province, was rescheduled to accommodate her attendance at the BC Liberal’s Lunar New Year reception.
“As a member of the Chinese community and minister responsible for multiculturalism, I felt it was important to me and my community that I attend the Chinese New Year celebration with our premier,” Wat wrote.
The Vancouver-based Civic Engagement Network alleged the change caused confusion and some were not allowed to speak because they didn’t re-register, accusing Victoria of using Chinese government-style tactics to silence critics.
CEN spokeswoman Meena Wong also alleged interference from Wat.
“None of us know (who was on) the speakers list,” said the former federal NDP candidate for Vancouver South. “Who can speak, who can not speak was apparently controlled by the minister and her staff.”
She said consequently many speakers praised the province and added it appeared to fit into the BC Liberals “quick-win” agenda revealed in a leaked memo last year to attract ethnic votes.
But Wat said, not only was everyone allowed to speak, the Richmond event ran an extra hour to accommodate them.
“We are open to any input . . . I am there to listen,” she said. “There’s nobody that registered that was denied an opportunity to speak.”
Wat said staff was directed to ensure all registered speakers were informed of the date change and if people missed the consultation forums they could submit their comments online at EmbraceBC through Friday.
Wong maintains the process was unfair and wants another forum.
“The way that I see it the speakers were stacked,” she said. “Yes there were 47 people speaking, but about 80% were all from the same friendly group of associations that are friendly to Teresa Wat.”
She added many of the same people speaking were those who arranged a recent event celebrating the 120th birthday of Chinese despot Mao Zedong.
Bill Chu of the Canadians for Reconciliation Society said about 300 people attended the Richmond forum.
Chu has been critical of the way the government has handled the apology consultation, saying Victoria hasn’t made enough of an attempt to bring non-Chinese into the meetings.
He pointed out the Chinatown banquet used to be hosted by the government, not the BC Liberals. Since the change, he added, the reception has taken on a more pro-Liberal party tone.