Sunday, January 27, 2008


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC

Open Letter to President Boychuk

President Boychuk,

As a longtime member of the GLBT community and one who has a 30 year plus history of participating in community life, advancing our community struggles and our Pride movement, I have come to the conclusion that the Vancouver Pride Society appears no longer to be interested in the members viewpoints and this puts into question and it pains me to say this, whether this society is the proper vehicle to express, honour and celebrate our pride.

What has been happening as of late with the Pride society is quite concerning. Members seem to be routinely shown disrespect--and--when was Pride ever about disrespect?

Over the last few years, members are increasingly becoming alienated and disenfranchised as a result of vicious personal attacks arising from various political camps and certain board members who believe that they know what is in the best interest of our community.

I have sadly watched as more and more people become disillusioned and move away from the Pride Society. Members have spoken out when they believed the Pride board moving in the wrong direction, yet this doesn't seem to have any effect on those board members who have certain agendas.

A number of examples of divisive board measures over the last few years include:

-- the attempt to alter the parade route without community consultation. The members rejected this attempt.

-- an attempt by the board to remove a director as a result of vexatious claims and inter-board personality clashes. The ensuing result was that members deemed it necessary to bring a motion of censure against the board, which appears unheard of in other societies.

-- a failed attempt of the board to deny members of the community the right to use the word pride, even though it is a commonly used word and community owned concept.

-- the attempt to trademark pride. Thankfully this desire of the then board was rejected.

Following these ongoing and unnecessary conflicts, many members, much to their credit, haven't given up and remained committed to the Pride society. Members provide guidance as necessary to the board and this seemed to assist us, for a short time at least, in moving forward our various community viewpoints and visions.

Unfortunately over the last few meetings, especially the January 19, 2008 and January 26, 2008 ones, where members were being asked to vote on by-law changes, the seemingly previous constructive interactions between members and board has now completely broken down.

In fact, the blatant attempt by Director Herman Nilsson at the Jan 26, 2008 meeting to invalidate the Jan 19, 2008, meeting is a complete affront to democratic principles and the stated votes of the membership. Moreover, this disruptive move of Director Nilsson is seen as nothing but sour grapes because the meeting of Jan 19, didn't go according to his wishes.

To refresh, because three people arrived about 20 minutes late at the Jan 19, 2008 meeting, Director Nilsson, who was manning the sign-in table attempted to deny these members full participation in the meeting. This even though no motion had been made at the start of the meeting to exclude late arrivals. In fact, you as the Chair made a ruling that the late arrivals could fully participate.

No challenge was made at the time to your ruling and therefore the business of the meeting proceeded properly.

Since that meeting, at the Jan 26, 2008, meeting, Director Nilsson took the floor before rules of order were established or even before the adoption of the agenda was moved or debated.

His move of taking the floor was highly unusual and irregular. It seems that he used his position as a board member improperly. This most likely is a conflict-in-itself. Because he is a board member he was accorded certain liberties which is contrary to the normal procedures of conducting society business. This move was viewed by many members as an attempt to hijack the meeting.

The outrageous claims made by Director Nilsson that the meeting of Jan 19, 2008 should be invalidated because the late arriving members were given the right to vote, has no validity or standing since you as Chair had already made a ruling on this matter.

If Mr. Nilsson was unhappy over the Chair's ruling, proper procedure to follow, would have been to challenge the Chair at that time.

Moreover, if one wishes to have a motion reconsidered, proper protocol is that the motion must be introduced for reconsideration from a member on the winning side of the vote. Mr. Nilsson in actual fact was on the failing side of votes to restrict membership under proposed bylaw change and therefore had no standing at the Jan, 26, 2008, to move a re-consideration motion to invalidate the duly constituted meeting of the membership.

The aforementioned Director keeps citing Roberts Rules of Order as definitive rules in how a meeting should be governed and this is creating unacceptable divisiveness and conflict in our meetings. Moreover, since Director Nilsson has only been on the board a few months, I have noticed a number of attempts by him to arbitrary exclude people from participating in community affairs.

I must ask when did Pride become about excluding people and shutting out community members? I thought pride was about inclusion, tolerance, acceptance, respect, and celebration.

I must state this. Already younger members of the community are expressing that pride seems to be a joke and moreover, they are articulating that pride doesn't seem relevant to them and they can't believe the pettiness and nastiness which is routinely occurring. I concur with them.
Something must be done about this or pride as currently constructed will become irrelevant to members of the community. It will become more of a day to showcase corporate conformity rather than the contributions, successes, losses and lives of our communities.

When did Pride deem it necessary to focus so much on rules and regulations? I say this because the early pride movement wasn't about embracing conformity. By moving in a direction of adhering to conformity, we are discarding and even far worse, dishonoring our past.

Back to the regulatory Robert's Rules of Order which are being used by a few vocal members of the board like a weapon. They are meant to be used as guiding principles and not used as measures to halt, hinder or derail properly constituted meetings. Mr. Nilsson hasn't been content with the explanations around Roberts Rules and at the January 26 meeting, he continually interrupted other speakers and when the meeting became so bogged down in points of order and points of privilege, a hostile environment was thus created.

Mr Nilsson has to accept full responsibility for the ensuing conflict. His questionable conduct must be addressed.

Mr. Nilsson unhappy about not getting his way then completely derailed the meeting by moving to adjourn it without even bothering to fix a date for a subsequent meeting so that the business of the meeting could be undertaken. Another board member immediately seconded the motion to adjourn and these type of board actions only further alienates ordinary members, since the members cannot properly debate issues on the agenda of importance to them.

Additionally, an agenda which had been adopted on consent by the members and for two Directors to disregard this democratic process is unacceptable. Moreover, I suggest these board directors improperly used their positions to close the members meeting and this is highly irregular and offensive.

These inappropriate actions of the two Directors and a few others must be dealt with or a deeper rupture within the community will occur.

Director Nilsson didn't seem interested in demonstrating respectful dialogue and his motion was a gutless move, meant to create divisions among attending members.

In this context Director Nilsson achieved his purpose but I ask at what cost?

The fallout from the Jan 26 meeting will have significant ramifications that go well beyond the pride society. Community members are talking and debating about this latest development at Pride. Whether this fissure can be repaired at this time, is questionable.

If the pride board doesn't take immediate remedial action for the offending and improper actions of a few board members, this will send a very clear and quite troubling signal that the pride society finds members as mere annoyances and that the intended consequence of this will be the demise of pride as is currently constructed.

In times of conflict, leadership must step up to the plate and demonstrate the mettle of strong leadership. If nothing is done, perhaps in order to appease a few board officers, the pride society will be sealing its own fate and this will be completely destructive to the entire GLBT movement.
President Boychuk, the ball is now in your court and by way of resolution, may I suggest that Board table officers (President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer) convene a special meeting among yourselves to address the improper actions of the two board directors in closing down a duly constituted meeting of the membership.

The society act holds board table officers to a higher standard of burden, responsibility, knowledge and expertise.

Holding board officer meetings at least once monthly separate from the entire Board of Directors meetings might assist in improving the overall functioning of the board and this will go a long way in improving membership and board relations.

Jamie Lee Hamilton
Community Activist
Pride Member