Transgender activist Jamie Lee Hamilton questions censure of NPA school trustee Ken Denike

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      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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      Jan 19, 2012 at 6:06am

      I'll take Jamie Lee Hamilton's opinion about this bit of spectacle any day over the school board's. Now can we get back to some equally pressing issues that the board seems incapable of addressing: class sizes, lack of adequate support for special needs students, lack of funds for teaching materials, in fact a massive lack of support on the part of the trustees for the entire public school system. Get off your silly arses and take on the provincial government on behalf of our kids! Enough theatrics.


      Jan 19, 2012 at 9:28am

      So in essence is Ken Denike really saying something like: I am not Homophobic but some of my best friends, colleagues and the people I make videos with and for are? Is that OK as an elected official in Canada in 2012?

      Amber Thompson

      Jan 19, 2012 at 9:29am

      "“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.”

      That, is what it, should do.


      Jan 19, 2012 at 10:22am

      GOT - re. the actions of the VSB in recent years, those who pay attention know that this Board has been the most vocal in the province in terms of fighting the province for adequate funding to address the serious problems you raise. In fact, the Liberals came close to firing the Board a couple of years back as retribution for their persistent demands. Ken Denike has been among the NPA trustees who consistently make excuses for the provincial government. At the Jan. 16 board meeting which passed the censure, he and the other NPA trustees voted AGAINST a motion to ask the BC School Trustees Association to urge the province to improve its "zero" bargaining position in the teacher negotiations. Our VIsion and COPE trustees have repeatedly proven that they are doing everything possible to keep the impact of funding shortfalls out of the classroom, but they do not control the purse strings. As for Jamie Lee, she has been an NPA friend for years, as well as a member of every other civic party. She has "zero" credibility.

      Rick in Richmond

      Jan 19, 2012 at 10:50am

      Why does anyone interview Jamie Lee Hamilton about anything?

      She has sought the nomination of every party on earth. She's endorsed and attacked everyone at some time or other. She made a ridiculous personal claim about Jim Green. Felix is right -- she has no credibility at all. She's been all over too many maps for too many years.

      Can't the Straight find someone who offers a bit of consistency? Who represents a force larger than her own ambition? Jamie Lee Hamilton represents the Jamie Lee Hamilton Party, and that's it. Only room for ONE ego in that room.

      Not good enough. You might as well interview Tami Starlight. She also represents no one.


      Jan 19, 2012 at 12:10pm

      @ felix ...'the Liberals came close to firing the Board a couple of years back as retribution for their persistent demands.'
      Yes I know about this and I was at public meetings supporting our teachers and kids against the REAL bullies in this scenario - the Liberal government. What I'm seeing is this whole fight being reduced, at the VSB trustee level, to Vision/COPE versus NPA politics at a time when the whole board needs to hammer the twits in Victoria who 'control the purse strings'. Every board in BC needs to get together on this, and if it turns out, as per Denike, that the trustees are merely stooges for the Liberals, then we know who to get rid of next time the chance to vote comes up. Your comment about the January 16 trustees' vote re the government's zero-increase mandate is the first I've heard about it. Who else voted against it? THAT'S the information we need in the media! And thank you for it.


      Jan 19, 2012 at 1:25pm

      Re. the motion at the Jan. 16 VSB meeting. This was to call on the BC School Trustees Association to urge the provincial government to shift on the net-zero mandate. The vote was 6 in favour (Bacchus, Clement, Payne, Wong, Lombardi, Wynen) vs. 3 opposed (the NPA's Denike, Woo and Ballantyne). As normal, the motion was completely ignored by the mainstream media. The BCSTA provincial executive may act on this motion, or else bring it to the BCSTA annual meeting, which is in a couple of months. The previous and current VSB trustees (except the NPA) have devoted enormous amounts of time and energy on this issue, only to be condemned by some for the crime of "advocating for public education." People like Mr. Prof. Dr. Sir Your Highness Ken Denike would prefer to simply cut and slash even more without embarassing Christy Clark by pointing out that the cupboard is empty, even after many important admin positions at the Board have been left unfilled due to lack of funds, classrooms are already overcrowded, special needs students keep getting left behind, parents are called upon to do heroic fundraising campaigns, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum. These are the big issues which Denike and Woo hope to avoid discussing by their inane attempts to raise a stink about a long-removed link in a package of teacher background materials to a website which (gasp, shock, horrors) includes pictures of MEN KISSING! As if kids in Vancouver are not aware that sometimes men kiss. My son realized that when he was six, for pity's sake.

      Doug Park

      Jan 19, 2012 at 3:52pm

      So...Denike is okay because, while sure he cozied up with homophobes and their issues, he can't be a homophobe himself because he's been personally kind toward one particular transgender person. Hey! I bet, "some of his best friends are gay?" My my.

      Denike and Woo went to right wing, homophobic voter groups and made supportive statements to try and win their votes. They have defended this by saying, "Gee, we didn't expect anyone else to hear about it," [Denike: "It wasn't meant for public consumption and it was a private event."] and more recently claiming it's not what they really believe. If that is true, then it sure looks like the right wingers whose votes they were trying to gather have a valid complaint against them!


      Jan 21, 2012 at 5:02pm

      Denike made a big mistake being involved in a video documentary espousing homophobic values. To be fair though, you would have had to see the link to the graphic sex acts in the campaign one of the draft VSB resources on this issue. The link has been removed but I'm sure it would have offended many parents.
      Too bad Denike and Woo chose to make it a political issue rather than getting down to tackling urgent district needs. Denike has advocated for funding successfully in the past and could perhaps advise the Liberals again now? I'd like to see less party bickering and more work from all our elected representatives!