Thursday, August 25, 2011

Betty's Choice - In Burnaby an email blunder opened a rare breach in a bureaucratic Stone Wall

After a month of glorious R & R it is time to scratch that itch. George Orwell, a writer whom I idolize, described four reasons for needing to write. His list included (i) Sheer egoism (ii) Aesthetic enthusiasm (iii) Historical impulse (iv) Political purpose. Blog articles must have purpose, and because I am an historian I favour Orwell's number (iii): "Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity."

Tomorrow the B.C. government will release the 2011 HST Referendum Voting Results. The media have already lined up a cadre of well tanned opinion leaders who will tell us what the poll numbers mean. In fact by Friday night we will have heard the opening salvo of a cold blooded campaign to finish off the wounded B.C. Liberal administration. We will start with battles for control of British Columbia's cities in the November 2011 B.C. municipal elections, to be followed by the end game, after the provincial associations have regrouped and rearmed. With so much at stake at home I have decided to ignore the Wide World and focus on local issues and personalities over the coming three months. In the doing, I will point readers to pertinent articles or websites which mainstream media may ignore.

On August 23rd the Vancouver SUN published an interesting story under: ERRANT EMAIL SHOWS BURNABY SCHOOL DISTRICT IS ILLEGALLY WITHHOLDING INFORMATION, FATHER SAYS. The article disclosed news that Betty Choi, executive assistant to the superintendent of schools, [Burnaby SD 41] had accidentally sent a copy of an incriminating email, to the very citizen (George Kovocic) she was in the process of stonewalling. You can read the full SUN article here - "Errant email". The relevant Choi quote is: "I don’t think we should get in a flap over this, we should just let him initiate his complaint to the Privacy Commissioner, and then wait for them to contact us, that will delay him even further, maybe past the [November civic] election. I heard he is running on the new civic team taht (sic) Parents Voice is forming for election of trustees!"
Ms. Choi was asked by the SUN to explain herself, but she stone walled the reporter. Old habits die hard. After a huddle at the School Board offices, Choi's boss told the Sun the email was a purely personal exchange between colleagues. His answer smells.

Betty Choi certainly knows where she stands. After months of resisting George Kovacic, a researcher for a Burnaby group called "The Parents' Voice," the United Front guarding the files at School Board offices have won. By wearing down and wearing out applicants for information, they subvert democratic access to the Public record and control public debate.

A decade ago I was a frequent attendee at meetings of The Canadian Alliance for Social Justice & Family Values Association, an advocacy group spearheaded by lawyer K-John Cheung, his wife, and a band of dedicated workers. I didn't agree with every point on their program but agreed with enough, and I did admire their guts and a dedication to core values, especially as they frequently took abuse for what the Media term "Christian conservatism". I had kids in the public school system, and as an educator myself I appreciated the opportunity to work with folks who believed in ideas which didn't have a dollar value attached. Since then I have noticed that similar groups have formed up, some of which are now taking hits from the Gay press. The local congregation which draws the most heat is the Willingdon Church, which earned television coverage last April when members packed a meeting of the Burnaby School Board which was discussing "anti-homophobia" policies. You can read the story here, which was published April 27th in XTRA! the Gay and Lesbian News. George Kovocic is quoted in the XTRA! article.
Packing a meeting of Burnaby School District 41. Media reports suggest that Christians of Asian descent (Chinese, Taiwanese and Korean) have refused to adhere to the tenets of Canadian political correctness, and that really drives some people wild. The rest of us learned to shut up years ago, for "the greater good" if not for our own.

Now what I find really interesting in my background reading, is that on this single public issue -Values Based Education - the Catholics and the Protestants are finally working together. I don't know how long amity will last, but it is a healthy development. Nobody can say if their political Crusade will really translate into seats at the School Board but it is a noteworthy phenomenon. Gay rights and equality are fully guaranteed by our laws, but the jury is still out on whether adults should be allowed to discuss sex of any stripe with someone else's children, be it in a playground or within the confines of a classroom.

Nothing in our culture is permanent. I sometimes inform students that my ancestors were warrior Celts who took enemy heads as trophies. Then the tribes became subjects of the Holy Roman Empire and the Christian communal sacraments replaced our ancient customs. Who would have thought that in the 21st Century the taking of heads (Mexico, Afghanistan, etc) would make a comeback. In Canada nothing is written in stone. In fact most of what we write, as Betty Choi could attest, is only recorded electronically, and can be made to disappear with a key stroke.

An interesting contribution to the story can be found in the August 19, 2011 edition of the NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER, an American publication with regular Canadian content. Steve Weatherbe covered recent work by B.C. Catholics which clearly dovetails with efforts made by several Protestant denominations over the past decade. The Weatherbe story can be read HERE. One gentleman quoted is Gordon World, a spokesman for The Parents Voice, and a possible candidate for the School Board in the November elections. Also interviewed for the REGISTER was Sean Murphy, who is B.C. director of the Canadian Catholic Civil Rights League. [It takes just ten minutes to read the 3 articles I linked to.] The website maintained by THE PARENTS' VOICE is here.

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