Transgender activist Jamie Lee Hamilton says that the Vancouver board of education went “a bit too far” in censuring school trustee Ken Denike for his videotaped comments concerning the district’s antihomophobia policy.
But Hamilton, who is one of the pioneers in the long and hard fight for LGBT rights in the city, doesn’t make the same defence for Denike’s Non-Partisan Association colleague Sophia Woo.
Denike and Woo have appeared in two videos identified with conservative groups.
“I’ve had personal dealings with Ken Denike, and I think as someone who was mistreated in school and bullied in school, I am very sensitive at a personal level to those who I might consider to be uncomfortable around my lifestyle, and I certainly never found that with trustee Denike,” Hamilton told the Straight in a phone interview. “He was actually always very, very friendly and outgoing to me.”
According to Hamilton, there’s nothing in Denike’s record of public service since he was first elected as a trustee in 1984 to remotely suggest that he’s homophobic.
However, Hamilton noted that like many politicians, Denike and Woo were trying to pander to certain groups to get their support. Still, according to her, Denike should be allowed to “make amends somehow”.
In an interview with the Straight in November just after she won her first term on the school board, Woo declared that she supports antibullying measures and a safe and respectful environment in the school system.
However, Hamilton isn’t completely convinced about Woo. “I have doubts about the sincerity of her statement that she supports antibullying measures,” Hamilton said.
Woo did not return a call from the Straight before deadline on January 18.
The school board voted 6–3 on January 16 to censure the two NPA trustees. Denike believes the motion, backed by trustees with Vision Vancouver and the Coalition of Progressive Electors, “violated” his human rights.
“The motion did not give me the opportunity to actually address that I do support the antihomophobia policy,” Denike told the Straight in a phone interview.
Vision school trustee Mike Lombardi doesn’t agree with Hamilton’s view of the censure.
“What we did was very appropriate, very measured,” Lombardi told the Straight by phone. “I think what they [Denike and Woo] did raised questions about the school board’s commitment to antihomophobia and social justice.”
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