NDP's Spencer Chandra Herbert says homophobic attack strikes against diversity

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      NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert says an attack by a man against him and his assistant at his office is not just of concern to LGBT communities, but to Vancouver's diversity.

      In a phone interview with the Georgia Straight, Chandra Herbert said just before noon on February 21, he was at the back of his constituency office on Denman Street in the West End when he heard expletives about rainbow flags and a loud bang. He ran to the front of the office just as the man was leaving. The man had punched a hole in an office door. He said he could smell alcohol in the air. 

      Chandra Herbert said he called the police, who arrested him as he stood on a street corner, smoking a cigarette. The 53-year-old man was taken to jail but has been released without charges. He is scheduled to appear in court on April 4.

      His assistant, who was allegedly punched in the face by the man, didn't go to hospital but sought medical treatment.

      The incident is being investigated by the Vancouver Police Hate Crimes Unit, due to the nature of the allegations.

      Chandra Herbert, who is openly gay, said he has dealt with homophobic attacks during high school, homophobic slurs on the street, and comments on Twitter.

      "The community of the West End is probably one of the most supportive communities in B.C. so it's not a common occurrence but it does happen."

      However, he said that the fact the incident became violent "is very upsetting".

      He pointed out that this attack should be of concern to everyone, not just LGBT people.

      "We are weakened if any of us are attacked for being who we are. Diversity, I think, is our strength, and I know folks, friends of mine, have been attacked before because of the colour of their skin or their gender. So it's not just homophobia that we have to deal with here, it's hatred. It's trying to make someone feel lesser so I guess the hater can feel bigger."

      He also emphasized the importance of taking action in response to such incidents.

      "It's important to report these things, it's important to speak out against these things, because often victims that I have talked to, feel as if they made the mistake, that it was their fault for being who they are, and so they don't do anything about it whereas they're the victim here and it's the person who did the attacking who needs to be feeling that what they did was wrong, not the other way around."

      He said that while he's angry at the man, Chandra Herbert hopes the man, and others with similar views, can learn from this example.

      Chandra Herbert had recently requested the legislature fly the rainbow flag in solidarity with LGBT Russians during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, as other city halls and legislatures across Canada have been doing.

      He has also continued to lobby for gender identity to be integrated into the B.C. Human Rights Code as well as specific policies against homophobia and transphobia in school districts across B.C.

      He's also working to ensure Pink Shirt Day, which takes place on Wednesday (February 26), means more than just countering bullying. He wants the underlying issues of bullying to be addressed.

      "The premier, she has the power to act, and so far has refused to act to make sure that every school board does as well," he said. "You can't erase bullying. You have to acknowledge power imbalances and hatred of specific groups if you're ever going to change that hatred, and that's what I think one of the problems with our province's current strategy is. They don't do enough to acknowledge diversity, instead kind of wrapping it up in a grab bag, just say no to bullying. Specific hatreds require specific responses."

      In a news release, he had previously stated that the attack has prompted him to work even harder to ensure the provincial government is doing as much as it can for B.C.'s diverse communities and to "stand against hate".

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitterat twitter.com/cinecraig. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/StraightLGBT.