New NPA secretary says he is not anti-SOGI, seeks apology from councillor

Rebecca Bligh resigned from the NPA over concerns the party’s executive has shifted to the far right

12th and Cambie

Who is Ray Goldenchild?

Some parents may know him from his work in Vancouver as a youth soccer coach and managing director of Orix Sports Management.

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After the media coverage Goldenchild received over the weekend, he is now more widely known as the guy who was mistakenly identified by a media outlet as attending an anti-SOGI event.

To say the least, he’s not pleased.

And for the record: “I’m not anti-SOGI,” he said by telephone Monday.

Before I get to more of his comments, some background:

Goldenchild is the newly elected secretary of the Non-Partisan Association, the same party that city councillor Rebecca Bligh resigned from last Friday over concerns the party had an affiliation with the anti-SOGI movement.

What is SOGI?

It stands for sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s a term often associated with school curriculum. Its main tenet is inclusion of LGBTQ students.

Which is a word Bligh used several times when we talked Monday.

“I stand for inclusion — no matter what, and there’s no debate around it,” she said in re-telling one of her main reasons for leaving the party.

“It’s a matter of personal integrity for me and my family values. I’m a queer woman. My own lifestyle, my own identity feels called into question.”

When Bligh announced her resignation on Facebook, she didn’t name names. But some of the media reporting about Bligh’s resignation tied Goldenchild to one of her reasons for leaving the party.

The link was made after a media outlet incorrectly identified Goldenchild, who is black, with another black man at an anti-SOGI event. That outlet’s reporting was also cited in other media stories, including a Courier story.

“I feel for him,” Bligh said. “In fact it’s happened to me, and it’s not a good experience. So I sympathize with him in this situation. However, that had nothing to do with me, nothing to do with my decision.”

At the same time, Bligh noted that Goldenchild ran for park board in 2018 with Vancouver First, whose mayoral candidate Fred Harding posted a video on YouTube saying “with SOGI, they got it all wrong. Vancouver First is opposed to its high-handed rollout.”

So why didn’t Goldenchild resign after those comments were made?

“Very good question,” he said. “Fred was the head of the party, not me. I ran for park board. People weren’t happy. People in the group pushed back, but you do it in-house. I don’t know how much of it he retracted, but he definitely did go back on camera and retract some of the stuff that he said.”

If Bligh and others thought those comments were a problem, he continued, then why did the NPA allow school trustee candidate Chris Qiu to run in the 2018 election when her name was tied to an anti-SOGI group.

Qiu was endorsed by the Canadian Council for Faith and Family, which has hosted anti-SOGI events. At the time, the NPA said it was unclear how Qiu ended up on the list of endorsed candidates.

Goldenchild said he can’t believe he’s having to answer questions about whether he supports the inclusion of the LGBTQ community in schools. In fact, he called it an offensive question.

When he decided to run in 2018 for a spot on the park board, he said his prime focus was supporting youth sports and sorting out field allocation for soccer organizations.

It still is, he said.

As he tells it, he joined the NPA in the fall, made a speech at the party’s AGM and was elected secretary. There’s nothing more to it than that, he said of his motivation to leave Vancouver First, describing the party as “a thumbnail” with little chance of being elected.

In reading Bligh’s Facebook statement and speaking to her Monday, her reasons for leaving the party centred on her belief the NPA was shifting to the far right of the political spectrum.

She pointed to “the newly elected executive” in her statement.

Goldenchild’s response: “Complete nonsense. Did she actually talk to anybody? No. Labelling me far-right? That’s comedy.”

In explaining that shift, Bligh pointed Monday to new board member Christopher Wilson, a former bureau chief of the far-right Rebel Media founded by Ezra Levant.

He is the same guy who called former federal environment minister Catherine McKenna “Climate Barbie.” Misogynistic is the term Bligh used to describe Wilson’s comment.

Wilson is now in charge of fundraising for the NPA.

She then pointed to newly elected NPA board treasurer Phyllis Tang, who has or had an affiliation with the anti-SOGI movement.

Tang ran unsuccessfully for city council in the 2018 election with Yes Vancouver, an NPA splinter party. Bligh said Tang was photographed at a post-election party with “others who have gone on the record as anti-SOGI.”

In addition, Bligh said, an organization called the “Let’s Vote Association” endorsed Tang and Goldenchild. One of the purposes of the association is to voice Canadians’ concerns about “traditional family values,” according to its website.

What “traditional family values” means, I don’t know.

I tried unsuccessfully Monday to speak to Tang, calling her several times during the day. I was unable to leave a message because her inbox was full.

Goldenchild said he had never met anyone from the “Let’s Vote Association,” and didn’t know why he received their support when he ran for park board in 2018 with Vancouver First.

His new finding Monday about the association: “They’re not actually anti-SOGI. It’s another group that endorsed them that’s anti-SOGI. I think they’re called ‘Let’s go’ or ‘Go get the vote’ or something like that. Can you believe that?”

Goldenchild said he would have expected Bligh to speak to him, if she had any concerns about the party’s board or executive; the executive includes Tang, Goldenchild and president David Mawhinney, who could also not be reached for comment Monday.

Mawhinney, however, did release a statement last Friday stating, in part, “there is no evidence that either our secretary Ray Goldenchild, or our treasurer Phyllis Tang have ever made any anti-SOGI statements.”

Bligh’s statement about her resignation infers the whole executive is anti-SOGI, Goldenchild said, adding that he deserves an apology from the councillor.

“It’s really, really dangerous to put that stuff out there,” he said. “Nobody’s reached out to me, nobody’s apologized.”

Some of the other new board members include Ryan Warawa, the president of the B.C. Conservative Party, and former ProVancouver mayoral candidate David Chen.

Meanwhile, Bligh still has the support of her NPA caucus, which issued a lengthy news release last Friday stating its support for SOGI and “longstanding support for inclusion and diversity in Vancouver.”

Bligh said she has since spoken to “a handful” of NPA board members who support her decision. She didn’t name them.

“I am certainly hearing their support loud and clear, but they are also in a tough spot right now,” she said of the 15-member board, which includes the three-member executive.

Bligh now serves as an independent and leaves the NPA with four representatives on council. The rest of council is comprised of three Green councillors, one COPE and one OneCity. Mayor Kennedy Stewart, a former longtime NDP MP, is also an independent.

No other party has reached out to Bligh about her joining them, she said, adding that she’s focused on the year ahead and hasn’t considered whether she’ll seek re-election in 2022.

“I won’t be swift to make any decisions,” she said.

mhowell@vancourier.com

@Howellings

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