Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC

Free Speech Rights at Stake

Yesterday, Dera, made public at Vancouver City Hall, that it has filed a lawsuit against Councillor Peter Ladner. One can assume the lawsuit is another vexatious and frivolous suit, brought about to smear the reputation of Councillor Ladner. Not unsimiliar to its egregious suit brought against me, Dera, allegedly is claiming that Councillor Ladner defamed them in his addressing of why Dera had its Chinese Seniors grant discontinued.

As a former board member of Dera, I know for a fact that Dera has had problems overseeing this public trust grant.

In 2004, Dera discontinued ESL classes to Chinese seniors as a result of not providing space to the volunteer ESL teacher so that he could carry out this program. Further, due to critical funding problems at Dera, the executive led by Mr. Kim Kerr, chose to significantly reduce the pay of the Chinese Seniors Coordinator. This was a result of, allegedly, mismanagement of public grant monies. Dera also refused to provide space to the Chinese Seniors coordinator which again made her work difficult.

Other barriers for Chinese seniors included their field trips, a longstanding tradition to assist Seniors with excursions out of their homes in order to address isolation effects. The coordinator, alone, was accompanying up to 40 Seniors and as a result of liability issues, expressed concern that she needed other staff support. Dera, in retaliation, instead of providing additional staff support, axed the program. Nice commitment to the Seniors isn't it Mr. Kerr?

Recently, Dera hired a new Chinese Seniors coordinator, Mr Sid Tan. As the Chinese ESL classes were previously cancelled and since many of the Chinese Seniors do not speak English, actually, their mother tongue is primarily, Cantonese, one would expect when hiring a new Chinese Seniors Coordinator, to determine first whether they speak Cantonese. Anonymous sources are allegedly claiming that the new Coordinator doesn't speak Chinese. If this is the case, how does Dera expect to provide services to Chinese seniors?

Dera, no doubt is feeling the pinch and losing the Chinese seniors grant is a major blow. While Kim Kerr slams government funders through one side of his mouth, he readily eats government cash through the other.

Councillor Ladner, tired of Dera's increasing violent ways, took on a leadership role and spoke out against continuing the Dera grant. Dera fired back, accusing Councillor Ladner of playing politics (imagine that from a politician). There are myriad of reasons why Dera lost the grant. And those reasons we are seeing playing out on an almost daily basis.

Councillor, Elizabeth Ball, backed up by Councillor, BC Lee, it has been alleged, was verbally threatened by Kim Kerr. As yet, the police and Ms Ball have not commented on the matter. Councillor Ball wants the issue to go away but with this recent suit brought against Peter Ladner, I don't expect it will.

Dera is also under a sweeping investigation by BC Housing. This audit should be completed in about six weeks time. I suspect Dera, along with its legal counsel, Jason Gratl and David Eby of Pivot, if the audit raises questions about Dera management issues, will fight tooth and nail to have its release shielded from public view. This, in itself, will be interesting, since Jason Gratl, is the President of BC Civil Liberties Association. Yes, President of a group who espouses free speech rights. Oh yes, the same Mr. Gratl, who is attempting to have my blogging privileges cancelled at Google. He appears to have problems with my right to protest against the organization he represents.

Speaking of speaking out, Dera shows its political immaturity as does Mr Gratl, when they scream for their right to protest and speak out, yet choose to silence the rights of others. How smart is that Mr Kerr and Mr Gratl?

Which goes right to the heart of this lawsuit against Mr. Ladner. Once again, Dera under the direction of their legal team, I allege, are mis-using the courts and legislative acts to stifle free speech. Mr. Ladner has spoken out and explained to voters why the Dera grant was discontinued. In retaliation, Dera has slapped him with a lawsuit.

I suspect, Mr Ladner, will be instructed by his lawyer to settle with Dera. The settlement will involve, most likely an apology. If this happens, Dera then will gleefully gloat and use the apology to discredit Mr Ladner, Ms Ball and the entire NPA. Of course, Dera will be aided and abetted by the Vision opposition party at City Hall.

The legal and political questions, raised by the shenanigans of Dera is this. Does the taxpaying public expect our politicians to carefully manage our public trust funds? I suspect they do. And when a politician speaks out and gives reasons as to why the public trust funds are to be discontinued, they are subjected to an egregious lawsuit, and should we expect this? Isn't this exactly what we expect from our politicians--to be accountable--to us--the public?

This lawsuit by Dera will raise interesting questions. What is at stake here is Councillor Ladner's right to freedom of political speech. Of course, it doesn't surprise me that Dera is objecting to this. What is totally shocking though is that Mr Gratl of the BC Civil Liberties and David Eby of Pivot are attempting through the courts to stifle free political speech. And that from two Representatives of groups who espouse free speech rights.

Jamie Lee Hamilton