Park commissioner Erin Shum accuses NPA of bullying and demanding obedience above all else

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      The new vice chair of the Vancouver park board says she's feeling "optimistic and free" after voting against her party's choice for a new chair.

      At last night's meeting, Erin Shum nominated Green commissioner Michael Wiebe to become the new chair.

      In a statement issued this morning, Shum also stated that she will "sit as an independent" because that's the only way she can stand for NPA values.

      Wiebe was elected as the first Green politician to head the board.

      The former NPA chair, Sarah Kirby-Yung, nominated fellow NPA commissioner Casey Crawford.

      In her statement, Shum declared her dissatisfaction with how she was treated in the NPA caucus.

      "I ran for the Park Board in 2014 to offer a collaborative, new-generation approach," she declared. "After years of dysfunction and division, I ran to be a voice for communities—in a new government that listened for a change. 

      "Since then, my values have been increasingly unwelcome in a leaderless and rudderless NPA caucus that demanded obedience above all else," she continued. "A caucus that bullied me when I listened to seniors and young families and voted against fee increases. A caucus that repeatedly threatened to kick me out when I objected to ripping up the platform we ran on and steamrolling volunteer community center associations—just like the previous administration we ran against." 

      Shum insisted that she "didn’t leave the NPA".

      "The NPA Park Board caucus left me," she stated. "It became clear there was no longer a purpose, a future, or an agenda to benefit communities. It became clear that some loud voices in the caucus had forgotten the values and the voters that got us elected, and had mistaken bullying for leadership. Ironically, the only way I can stand for the NPA values and voters that put me here—at least for now—is to sit as an independent." 

      Shum closed with this remark: "Today, I’m feeling optimistic and free, looking forward to working collaboratively on behalf of all Vancouverites as Vice Chair of the Park Board."

      Erin Shum (centre) joined NPA commissioners Casey Crawford, John Coupar, and Sarah Kirby-Yung at the Bloedel Conservatory on December 8.
      Carlito Pablo

      This morning, the former NPA park board chair, Sarah Kirby-Yung, said that members of caucus "are incredibly flabbergasted and surprised and disappointed" by Shum's decision to back Wiebe as the new chair.

      After reading Kirby-Yung’s comment to the Straight that the NPA was surprised about what happened, Shum agreed to be interviewed.

      According to Shum, her decision to go against the NPA shouldn’t come as a surprise.

      “I was trying to extricate myself from a relationship that has gone wrong,” Shum told the Straight by phone Tuesday (December 13).

      She related that when she voted against increases in service fees last year, the NPA caucus “repeatedly threatened to kick” her out of the group.

      “I was basically verbally abused for an hour-and-a- half that I wasn’t being a team player,” she recalled a meeting she had with NPA commissioners Kirby-Yung, Crawford, and John Coupar.

      Because of the treatment she received, Shum said that she “reluctantly” voted with the team this year on another round of fee increases for park and recreation services.

      Going back to that caucus meeting last year, Shum related: “It was very uncomfortable when I said, ‘Look, I’m a millennial, like all three of you are at least 15 years older than me, and you can’t relate how these fees make a huge difference for people in my age group, and also for — like my parents’ demographic, the baby boomers — the seniors who are on fixed income’.”

      According to Shum, she had hoped that things will get better.

      “I tolerated and tolerated for a long time, and I kept trying to voice it and work it out with the team, with the caucus, but they didn’t see me as maybe at the same level as them, or, you know, I’m not as mature enough,” Shum said.

      She said that based on the “language and the treatment” she was getting from NPA commissioners, it was “very clear” that they don’t consider her as an equal.

      According to Shum, 33, the NPA’s treatment of her was evident to others, like members of the community.

      Shum said: “Even around the board, the commissioners see that I was being subtly abused and bullied.”