COPE releases lengthy letter apologizing to Indigenous school board candidate Diana Day

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      Last year, political supporters of Diana Day were hoping she would become the first Indigenous woman ever elected as a Vancouver school trustee.

      Day, who's from the Oneida Nation in the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, was nominated by the Coalition of Progressive Electors.

      She's a long-time resident and community advocate in Vancouver, lead matriarch and program coordinator at the Pacific Association of First Nations Women, and chaired the parent advisory council at Vancouver Technical secondary school.

      But Day's campaign received a setback when she wasn't endorsed by the Vancouver District and Labour Council.

      The labour organization chose to support COPE's only other school board candidate, Barb Parrott, who was elected.

      In addition, the VDLC endorsed the three Vision Vancouver school board candidates, including Allan Wong, who was elected.

      When the votes were counted, Day came 10th in the race for nine seats.

      Wong edged her out by 670 votes, grabbing the ninth and final spot.

      Parrott came eighth, with 1,508 more votes than Day.

      Earlier this week, COPE issued a letter apologizing to Day for not doing enough to help her get elected in 2018.

      "The Coalition was unable to secure you the promised endorsement from the local labour council prior to the election campaign," wrote COPE cochairs Nancy Trigueros, Rider Cooey, and the COPE executive. "This was a critical moment. Without this crucial endorsement you lost a significant number of votes that would certainly have made the difference in gaining a seat on the Vancouver School Board."

      But that wasn't the only shortcoming that they admitted.

      COPE's executive acknowledged not effectively implementing a dedicated focus on getting Day elected.

      This occurred even though she was the top vote getter for COPE in the 2014 election. In that campaign, she won more than 13,000 votes than all of the other COPE trustee candidates and more than any of the party's park and council candidates.

      "Today, on behalf of COPE, we apologize for failing to adequately support your campaign for School Board and for the deplorable delay in our response," the letter declared. "In making this apology, we have sought to understand the depth of our involvement, and the nature of the actions we commit to today." 

      The COPE executive also acknowledged not providing additional financial resources, not producing a "promised professional video", and not sufficiently supporting attempts to "organize a substantial number of rank-and-file endorsement and publicize them effectively".

      "These critical mistakes demonstrated that we did not anticipate nor understood the unequal ground and disadvantages that Indigenous candidates confront," they wrote. "We credit our membership for presenting a motion to address this failure. Unfortunately, our learning comes with a very high cost and injury to you." 

      The COPE executive has committed to educating itself and the membership on the effects of centuries of colonial oppression suffered by Indigenous peoples.

      In addition, the party has pledged to create a campaign fund dedicated to electing Indigenous candidates and addressing the issues that led to the labour movement not supporting Day's campaign.

      "We acknowledge the history of residential schools, loss of land and resources, the Indian act, the sixties scoop, foster care scoop and racist colonial educational system which caused devastating harm on Indigenous families, culture, heritage and language," the letter stated. 

      It ended by noting that in 1972, COPE's first mayoral candidate, Angie Todd Davis, was the first Indigenous woman nominated to run for political office in the city.