Thursday, September 20, 2007

Int'l Boycott of Vancouver High School Diplomas Concealed By School Board

(photo: Ken Denike, Chair, Vancouver School Board)

While the Vancouver School Board is exporting schools and diplomas to the children of the elite in China's Communist Party, Vancouver residents say it is importing tactics of political repression used by China's Communist Party.

The result is an international boycott of Vancouver School Board secondary school diplomas. The boycott was launched in 2004 by individuals who have since formed the ad hoc group, Canadians Opposing Political Psychiatry. The DTES Enquirer has learned that Vancouver School Board trustees and administrators, including Principals and Vice Principals, were sent written notification of the boycott but concealed it from the public.

Organizations around the world "are being asked not to recognize these diplomas", according to a Feb. 13, 2004 notice entitled, "International Boycott of Diplomas Issued by the Vancouver School Board", received by the VSB.

The boycott stemmed from evidence that the VSB was using police intimidation and political psychiatry to deter legitimate citizen complaints. Pursuing a complaint against the Vancouver School Board can earn the complainant a visit from Vancouver's notorious "Car 87", a police car in which an armed constable and psychiatric nurse ride. They arrive at a complainant's home, according to official forms that they complete during the visit, to perform an assessment for "apprehension" to a mental hospital.

A psychiatric notation appears for life adjacent to that individual's name on the police computer system -- even if they are cleared. But here's the catch: even when you're cleared, you're never really cleared. The wording on the form reveals that an individual is simply not a candidate for apprehension "at this time".

In the fall of 2002, outgoing President of the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils mentioned intimidation of individuals pursuing complaints with school administrators in an interview with the Vancouver Sun. Reggi Balabanov stated that complainants were discovering police on their doorsteps. This has put a "chill" on the willingness of people to pursue complaints, Balabanov said. [Balabanov was not involved in organizing the boycott.]

The boycott was ultimately triggered by a case involving police intimidation and classic political psychiatry in October 2002.

The woman targeted for political psychiatry was the last (last known) of several individuals, both female and male, who had lodged complaints --with no knowledge of one another's complaints at the time -- with the School Board about a verbally and physically abusive teacher. The VSB instructed her to submit her complaint in writing to Violence Prevention Co-ordinator Lisa Pedrina, but when she did, she got no response. Months later, she wrote a letter to the VSB criticizing this lack of response. She quickly received a letter dated Sept. 12, 2000 from the VSB in-house lawyer, Richard Hall, threatening her with legal action for "liable and slander" -- this lawyer could not spell "libel" -- if she dared criticize Pedrini again. The woman asked trustees to ensure that the VSB stopped issuing threats to prevent the raising of legitimate concerns with staff.

Hall had told the woman in the threatening letter, that if she wanted her complaint processed, she would have to re-submit it. This is a typical "obstructionist tactic" she says. She asked trustee to investigate why this in-house lawyer could not simply pull her original submission out of a VSB filing cabinet? Hall later left his job at the VSB.

With Hall's departure, the VSB hired an external lawyer, Wendy Harris, to send the woman a letter stating that "no substantiation was found" to support her claims that previous individuals -- who had by now heard of her case and contacted her -- had lodged complaints about this teacher. "There are no records which could be located to indicate that either of these individuals had made complaints against [the teacher]...." Complainants were stunned by this response. The VSB ignored written notification that a previous complainant, a male, was willing to provide them with letters on VSB letterhead brushing off his complaint against this teacher, as well as a postcard he had received from the teacher apologizing for 'attacking' him. The VSB also ignored written notification that an earlier female complainant was willing to speak to them, a complainant who had been telephoned at home by a VSB supervisor when she suddenly stopped all school volunteer work after being physically assaulted by this teacher; the supervisor told her that the teacher would be sent on "sensitivity training." The VSB had been given contact information, in writing, for both these complainants. They had also been provided, in writing, the names of two VSB supervisors who had received complaints about the teacher.

The above example was one of several outlined in an Oct. 12, 2002 letter to the Vancouver Board to illustrate that they were paying hundreds of dollars an hour in taxpayers' dollars to evade a genuine investigation into this case. The woman stated in the letter that she intended to campaign in the election, just two months away, about VSB "duplicity" in the handling of bullying complaints, specifically their practice of assuring the public that such complaints were being taken seriously when in fact letters complainants were receiving told a different story. The ruling party, the Non-Partisan Association, was poised to lose the election; any campaigning by the woman could have been damaging to incumbents.

The VSB called police "Car 87".

In the morning of Nov. 5, 2002, the woman responded to pounding on her door by opening it and discovering an armed constable, Michelle Sevigny, standing with psychiatric nurse, Don Getz. Getz was flapping her Oct. 12, 2002 letter to the VSB in his hand. It is noteworthy that her Oct. 12, 2002 intent-to-campaign letter was the sole evidence submitted to police and the psychiatric nurse to justify the visit.

The woman felt sufficiently terrorized by the Car 87 visit that she dropped plans to campaign in the School Board election.

At the beginning of the visit, Getz told the woman, "You seem fine to me." As he was leaving at the end of the visit, she claims -- this is something she reported in writing to the Health Authority and the VSB at the time -- Getz told her that he shared her view that the upcoming tight School Board election had motivated the VSB to arrange this visit.

In his official psychiatric report, though, the sole reason Getz provided for going to the woman's home to assess her for "apprehension" was that she had made "freedom of information requests" to the VSB. Indeed, at the end of the Oct. 12/02 letter, the woman had requested that documents from the file be released to her under the Freedom of Information Act. The woman had made two routine freedom of information requests over the previous year. Getz revealed in his report that the only person the VSB made available to meet with him was Georgina Kosich, the Labour Relations and Freedom of Information Assistant at the VSB. (When he arrived, he had chatted with the VSB's new lawyer, Michael Hancock, who had directed him to Kosich.) The woman has in her possession letters from Kosich responding to her Freedom of Information requests and inviting her to feel free to contact her again.

The revelation in Getz' report that the VSB had diverted him to a freedom of information clerk reinforced the fact that they did not feel at any risk. Yet Car 87 is, according to Health Authority policy, to be reserved for cases where the targeted individual poses an "imminent" risk of killing themselves or others. That policy was confirmed in a taped telephone call with Jan Fisher, Head of Client Relations at the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. Fisher told the woman that she "might get an apology" as a mistake had obviously been made. It wasn't a mistake, says the woman. "It was a pre-meditated attempt to intimidate me and discredit me with the electorate."

The fact that the Car 87 visit was no mistake tends to be supported by comments made by Police-School Liaison, Sergeant Garry Lester, whom the woman telephoned for answers on the afternoon of Nov. 5th, just hours after the visit. He told her during a taped telephone conversation (advocates routinely advise DTES residents to tape conversations in cases of police intimidation and political psychiatry) that he had stressed to the VSB that there was "nothing untoward" about her Oct. 12/02 letter. But the VSB pressured him, he revealed, so he approved the visit. (Such soliciting by bureaucrats of a favor from the VPD in order to have a critic visited has turned up in documentation pertaining to four cases of political psychiatry and/or politically-motivated police intimidation brought to the attention of DTES Enquirer bloggers.) Lester confirmed, when asked by the woman during their telephone conversation, that the Oct. 12, 2002 letter was the sole evidence considered in the decision to send Car 87 to her home.

Despite the lack of evidence that the woman posed a risk, approval of the Car 87 visit allowed instant access by Car 87 staff to her medical records. "They had no evidence against me," she says, "so they went on a fishing expedition to see if they could find anything to use against me." [She can prove that content of her medical records was altered when transferred into the Car 87 report. She has copies of both the original record and the Car 87 report. But this will be covered in another post.] She has no history of mental illness.

During the year and a half between the Oct./02 Car 87 visit and the organizing of the boycott of diplomas issued by the Vancouver School Board, records confirm that efforts were made to have VSB trustees take responsibility for their alleged instigation of police intimidation and political psychiatry. In 2003, trustees held an in-camera review of the case of the woman targeted by Car 87. She was not invited. But a staff person implicated in wrongdoing in the case was invited to brief the Board. The woman learned from meeting notes obtained through Freedom of Information that evidence in the case had been consistently misrepresented at the meeting. "He said the teacher wasn't working for the Vancouver School Board at the time we lodged our complaints, like we were all too stupid to know what school she worked at." All they had to do was check the payroll records, she points out, to confirm that she had definitely been a VSB teacher when the complaints were lodged.

Jane Bouey, elected in Nov. 2002, was a Vancouver School Board member during the term in which the in-camera review was held and the VSB persistently evaded addressing allegations that they had restricted freedom of expression via Ca 87. No hint of Bouey's record was provided to the public as she appeared in the media to sell a draft of "Safe Schools" legislation. This "Safe Schools" draft was criticized for imposing excessive and heavy-handed limitations on informal, day-to-day speech of students. Critics who believe the VSB is comfortable with tactics typical of the Communist Party in China and the former Soviet Union are hardly dissuaded by the fact that Bouey is Assistant Manager of the Communist Party's People's Co-op Bookstore in Vancouver and uses the internet domain address of the Communist Party's People's Voice newspaper as her personal e-mail address. While on the School Board, her partner in her personal life was (and may continue to be) Kimball Cariou, editor of the People's Voice.

There is no doubt that the Vancouver School Board was aware of the boycott ultimately triggered by this case. A Freedom of Information request to the VSB by the woman visited by Car 87 resulted in the release of a copy of the notice entitled "International Boycott of Diplomas Issued by the Vancouver School Board" bearing the stamp, "RECEIVED Feb. 23, 2004 HUMAN RESOURCES". The VSB also released other documents pertaining to the boycott bearing "RECEIVED" stamps with dates in 2004. Further, a copy of the notice of the boycott was hand-delivered to the Vancouver School Board headquarters at Broadway and Granville in March 2004, at which time proof of receipt was provided by a receptionist who signed a photocopy of the notice and signed her name on it.

The VSB has never formally responded to the boycott. An internal memo, though, does reveal a somewhat flippant response from a VSB administrator, "Wendy", in a handwritten memo to another VSB administrator, Sue Arthur, dated Feb. 27, 2004:

"Sue – put your "Legal Counsel" hat on for this . . . . Take care & happy Friday!"