Tuesday October 13, 2020 | VICTORIA, BC
by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
It was all over Twitter on Thanksgiving Sunday … how the reputation of a 35-year-old woman running as a BC NDP candidate for re-election on the lower mainland was tossed about like a play toy in a recent BC Liberal online Zoom call event.
The comments made about Bowinn Ma (who has served one term so far in the BC Legislative Assembly as a BC NDP MLA) by a fellow MLA (Jane Thornthwaite, BC Liberal) have been widely seen by people across British Columbia as a blatant example of systemic sexism.
Others seen participating in the call — a roast for retiring MLA Ralph Sultan — included Abbotsford West candidate Mike de Jong, West Vancouver-Capilano candidate Karin Kirkpatrick, former Liberal MLA Kevin Falcon, Liberal party member Jess Ketchum, West Vancouver-Sea to Sky candidate Jordan Sturdy and former Liberal MP Gordie Hogg.
The video was apparently released by the moderator of the event.
BC NDP Leader John Horgan weighs in:
Early on Thanksgiving Monday, October 13, BC NDP Leader John Horgan said the BC Liberal video incident was an opportunity for a ‘teachable moment’.
He said that BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson (who participated in the Zoom call that has gone viral in social media and mainstream national media) missed that opportunity entirely.
Horgan — who made a point of having a gender-balanced caucus from day one in 2017, said that “women across Canada are cheering British Columbians for standing up to say this is not okay”. He added: “This is what systemic sexism looks like – you can say what Jane Thornthwaite said and no one bats an eye.” | See more in October 12, 2020 campaign notes by Island Social Trends
South Island candidates weigh in:
On the campaign trail yesterday on Thanksgiving Monday in Victoria, BC NDP candidates Mitzi Dean (Esquimalt-Metchosin) and Grace Lore (Victoria-Beacon Hill) also explored why the incident about Bowinn Ma’s treatment in the BC Liberal video has resonated so powerfully with people across the province.
Mitzi Dean told Island Social Trends: “Women especially across the whole of the province were really dismayed to see that video, to see how Bowinn Ma as a young woman, seeking the re-election was treated. And how the leader of the opposition didn’t intervene, the members of the opposition caucus were just giggling away and laughing. And they’re all responsible for colluding with that terrible attack, and that terrible sexualisation.”
“We want to engage people in this discussion,” said Dean, who outlined how the BC NDP government in the past 3.5 years did some gender equity work “which was about changing systemic sexism”.
She itemized how there are now 18% more women on public boards and how the public service is being trained in gender-based analysis. She says Horgan’s government has applied a systemic lens through which to dismantle how women become disadvantaged by systems. “That’s what our government does,” said Dean.
“Our government proactively has been diving into the system – not only on gender-based analysis but also all intersectionality and how all those barriers are there. We named racism. We rolled out and put in some funding, and made sure we’re tackling racism,” said Dean. She also mentioned how other barriers — such as the cost of rent — is part of a system that disadvantages people.
That same morning, Horgan along with other MLAS in Vancouver announced how the current rent freeze (brought in during the COVID-19 pandemic) will be extended through 2021 under a BC NDP government.
“So I think what’s important is that we do look at sexism as a systemic issue and we find ways to tackle it. That’s really what the BC Liberals are not doing,” said Dean, who served as BC’s first Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity, in 2017-2020.
Grace Lore told Island Social Trends: “For me this issue of how we talk about and treat women in politics is a personal issue. As a young woman opting into politics and in a professional sense, this is the work I have done. So it’s hard overstate the impact of that video.”
“I am so grateful to Bowinn for standing up and making folks understand that this is about her experience and how she was talked about,” said Lore outdoors in Fernwood on Monday.
“But also the ways in which other women face casual and not-so-casual sexism in the workplace. We deserve better than that. The people who are participating in politics at all levels – as voters, as folks who are advocating, deserve better than that,” said Lore who teaches at the University of Victoria and for years has advocated for the Victoria Sexual Assault Center.
This is Lore’s first run for a seat as MLA, in the core Victoria riding that was held for many years by outgoing MLA Carole James.
Announcing free contraception:
Dean and Lore were in Fernwood at noon on Thanksgiving Monday to announce about the BC NDP’s promise that if re-elected they will deliver free contraception to all British Columbians. They were joined by Devon Black, co-founder of Access BC . The initiative is estimated to cost about $60 million per year.
The initiative would save much more in the big picture in terms of preventing unplanned pregnancies and all the socioeconomic consequences — both for individuals and families as well as the government in the longer term.
Yesterday BC NDP incumbent Katrina Chen also made the free contraception announcement in Vancouver, alongside Dr Habte representing Access BC, but today Lore said the Access BC initiative was generated out of the south Vancouver Island area.