The amount of ridicule that’s been thrown my way has been disheartening to say the least (this is a timid snapshot of literally 100's of comments against me):
- I plead with you to put yourself in my shoes for half-a-minute:
- I worked tirelessly to be a part of this new party,
- I fought against claims of racism and xenophobia, because I actually believed Maxime when he pointed to fiscally conservative foundations and goals,
- I personally invested time, money and a huge amount of energy into creating one of the most ambitious and prepared EDA’s in Western Canada,
- When bombastic rhetoric started to take over for rational and strategic posturing, I made a conscious decision to fight it from within, behind closed doors,
- Finally, when all-else failed, I chose to publicly resign, knowing that politicians listen more closely to publicity than morality.
When I joined the party, I got my share of pushback from friends and family, and all but lost every political ally and friend I’ve made through municipal and provincial politics. However, I was okay with making a personal sacrifice as I have done time and again over the years, for policies I truly believed would benefit those in Kelowna-Lake Country, and honestly everyone in Western Canada (an often ignored voting bloc). Throughout my life I've had to overcome criticisms and obstacles constantly. In all honesty, the only comments that I found were difficult to reconcile, was the unabashed spite from my own family, without even knowing my motivation for joining the PPC (although fiscal conservatism is something we should hold all of our politicians accountable for, regardless of party).
Now I’ve gone out and played the ‘race-card.’ That’s a nice term for people who attempt to invalidate my claims, to reconcile their own support of systematic racism and bigotry: the ‘race-card’.
Before I lay into my personal account of racism within the party, I will first shed some light on my personal experience with racism in Canada. And I truly do believe we’re leaps and bounds ahead of our neighbours to the South, in terms of civil rights, but just because manslaughter isn’t first-degree murder, isn’t justification for the action.
When I was younger, I always thought I was born into the wrong family. We were different than the others on the block, and I wanted nothing more than to be normal. I talk a little more about my personal life in the ‘My Story’ section on this website, but my first experience with racism was when one of the kids on our block admitted why they never hung out or played with us: we were known as the ‘evil aliens with afros’, their words verbatim.
Now I knew that not everyone thought of us that way, some of our neighbours were friendly, some of the kids did let us hang out with them. So rather than just paint all of the kids with the same brush - decide they all looked down on us and wanted nothing to do with us - I fought that idea, afterall, wasn't I just a kid as well? Within two weeks I was going for bike rides around the block with that very same kid. If I hadn't made an effort, if I hadn't tried to overcome that first initial encounter with racism, I would probably look back with jaded vision. Now instead, I can say that I admired some of those friendships I made back home, there truly were well-meaning people on that block growing up.
This happened around the same time that I started to notice certain people would stare at me, at us. I always thought most people were friendly, but I would distinctly notice how some people would cross the streets when we went for walks, giving us dirty looks. As kids, we had to joke about it with each other, because we didn’t want to admit that strangers actually hated us for the colour of our skin. But it wasn’t funny, noticing how some families would go so far as to pack up and leave, sending dirty looks our way from parks, playgrounds, public spaces. It was a humbling experience, one that in a subconscious kind-of way forces you to read a person's expressions, posture, mood, judging how to present yourself, well before a word has come out of their mouth.
- As I grew up, racism became less direct and more indirect. Because of the turmoil of family life and my youth, I made a determination to work twice as hard as everyone around me and really embrace lessons in humility and obedience.
- Potential employers mock me? Thank them for their time.
- Random strangers heckle me or throw eggs my way? Laugh politely at what was obviously just a joke.
- Coworkers or bosses make fun of me for being ‘the only black guy’? Play along.
- Work twice as hard as everyone else, get paid a fraction of what my peers earned? Always get the bottom jobs even having higher merit or seniority? Do it with a smile.
- Get called Michael Jackson, because I’m not ‘really black’? Sing ‘Billie Jean’ and let them laugh at me.
- Johanne Mennie, Caleb Voskamp and Glen Walushka's push to engage with and solicit racist groups like the 'Soldiers of Odin', 'Three Percenters' and 'Canadian Combat Coalition (C3)' for votes, while Maxime Bernier publicly disavows racism and hatred,
- Glen Walushka's racially motivated attacks against me: a duly-elected President with a stronger performing EDA (two candidates ready to contest a nomination and a strong network of local support),
- Glen Walushka's willingness to harm the party for personal gain, by his attacks against me (a strong EDA President), as well as his attacks against other members and party officials,
- Glen Walushka's political history, his vocal discrimination against women and minorities,
- Glen Walushka's willingness to utterly disregard policy and our democratic institutions, his demands of EDA President's to disregard other PPC organizers and follow his orders (if myself, a person of colour that was objectively one of the most prepared EDA leaders, with over ten years working in some the most challenging environments, suffered the level of personal attacks that I had - I could only imagine how another person of colour with less experience would be kept at the lowest levels under someone like Glen),
- Glen Walushka's maneuvering to secure control of party finances for the PPC in British Columbia, to throttle EDA's he doesn't agree with,
- Glen Walushka's strong affiliations with a vocal and influential racist like Brian Lovig of Right Edition.
- Johanne Mennie's direction of leadership, embracing and defending hateful people like Glen Walushka, while driving out fair-minded, hard-working executives, members and volunteers.
The one thing that I relied upon my entire young-adult life, was the ability to work twice as hard as everyone else around me, not complain, and take impropriety the same way I take a joke: with a smile on my face.
The racism I encountered as I grew into a young adult was a lot less direct, a lot less ‘evil aliens with afros’ and a lot more systematic. The majority of people I met as I grew older were genuinely kind, positive and a joy to know and work with. It were the select few, and often people that had some semblance of power or authority that would demonstrate gross impropriety and racist tendencies. I recall my time working in Abbotsford, because of my role I would often work directly with business owners and community leaders, and how discouraging it was when a handful of influential people in positions of authority, would openly demean people of colour, claiming we're infiltrating their town, destroying the local environment, and being labeled ‘blueberry pickers’ in a derogative way.
What I truly loved about growing up in that small town, was that as much as there were pockets of hate, there was much more warmth and compassion. I learned not to repay hatred with hatred, to turn the other cheek, and to strive and be a better person regardless of those against me. One manager in particular demonstrated that my work was what mattered, moreso than the ‘intangible’ aspects employers tend to judge people by. Another taught me about merit and seniority, to always treat every job – no matter how big or small – with the same amount of respect, ambition, and to demonstrate consistency and loyalty. And yet another taught me that two people doing the exact same job, will treat you completely differently simply because of their own views, regardless of anything I’ve said or done. It was inspiring to know that the vocal and hateful racists were the actual minority group, with well-meaning people in the often silent majority, helping where and when they could.
That quickly changed when he found out I was black; it went from supporting me and the grassroots movement, to wanting to be more involved, discouraging and distant. I’ve experienced a significant amount of racism throughout my life, so I chalked it up to another opportunity to work exceptionally hard and prove myself yet again.
When we finally held our inaugural general meeting, everything started to look up. As a matter of fact, I won a contested election to become the President of the Kelowna-Lake Country EDA by an overwhelming amount of support. The people that came on-board with me were not only level-headed, but ambitious, intelligent and compassionate. We didn’t agree on everything, but nobody on my board demonstrated any racism toward me or to people of colour. That I’d like to make clear.
I was happy to give everything I had, and I started to work with our provincial director to get our EDA up and running. The little I did hear from Glen, was his posturing to gain power in the BC Interior (asking adjacent EDA President’s to sign various initiatives of his to have individuality from the rest of BC, authority over spending in the BC Interior, and other initiatives that I felt were distasteful, but didn’t set off any alarms) or him pushing Brian Lovig’s channel on me, telling me that Brian was a huge part of the movement, a financial supporter and a close friend of Max Bernier. I took everything Glen shared with a grain of salt, he always seemed to have an answer, an ulterior motive.
On the other hand, the leadership at the time seemed intent on building a strong party. It wasn't all roses, as anybody that's worked in a large organization will tell you, but I mostly worked with my board of directors and when needed, communicated with head-office through our provincial director at the time, and she demonstrated fairness and strength, with a goal that I shared: ensuring party success. I had no concerns with her or her character. I was thrilled to face the challenges we had, and to work with people that were passionate, intelligent and truly believed in our ability to form a real opposition party.
I personally met with hundreds, if not thousands of people throughout the community. We started doing one-on-one videos, asking questions, figuring out the best way to position a candidate. We were going through the motions on an accelerated timeline, in order to gain ground for the upcoming general election.
However, through our successes I started to come face-to-face with Glen’s desire to impose a hateful tone over what he felt was his fiefdom in the BC Interior, and that select members of the leadership team truly did support his vision. Encouraging meeting with unsavoury groups in the area, or wanting to partner with and amplify select groups rhetoric to appeal to what I saw as the alt-right. My board didn't budge, we were making massive gains by doing what every grassroots movement should do, share the party platform with real people focused on real issues, not catering to vocal groups that carry very small spheres of influence.
A few of my directors told me how Glen had approached them, making off-hand comments about how I shouldn’t be the President because ‘those people are all liberals,’ or how he felt I had done a poor job preparing our EDA (even though we were the most prepared EDA in the BC Interior based off HQ’s expectations, not Glen’s) and referring to me as ‘that boy’, asking ‘is he married? Is he gay?’ like it mattered to my job. I could only imagine that I was getting told the gentler side of his attacks on me, but that didn’t shake my focus.
Glen would constantly imply that he wasn’t sure how I won the election, or make attempts to undermine our activities by providing misleading or incorrect information. I wouldn’t call him clever, but instead say he genuinely feels that certain people groups were less than him, that they shouldn’t be in positions of authority. Any time him and I did have a conversation, they were curt, and usually had him amplifying the rhetoric on immigration, in my opinion it was simply to solicit an unprofessional response from me. I didn’t give him the pleasure, I’ve worked with people like him in the past, and being an adjacent President with an EDA that wasn’t even as prepared as ours, I didn’t dignify the game he was playing. I knew that getting involved in politics I would see some ugliness, but if you've read my story, you would understand that I truly believed in my ability to work hard, to overcome these challenges and to still make a real positive impact.
Everything changed when Johanne Mennie became the Executive Director. She encouraged Glen, let him bully out the provincial directors and appointed him to the role. I felt the target on my back the minute it happened, as he had new ammunition to contact my directors and offer them his backing to explore an attempt at removing me from my position. He was furious that I hadn’t signed any of his posturing documents, that I didn’t have an open invitation to Brian Lovig, that we were making a huge impact without the racist and xenophobic rhetoric that he wanted me to espouse.
Glen was posturing with my directors, making it clear he felt above our board's constitution, and considering the party hadn't adopted a national team or constitution, he felt if my directors supported it, he would be able to strong-arm me out of my role. I was elected into my position and our EDA was soaring, but working twice as hard as everyone else wasn’t good enough in this situation. Like the almost stereotypical ‘good old boy’ that I’ve encountered time and again, Glen decided that it wasn't anything empirical that mattered, he just personally didn't want to work with me, although he acknowledged to my board that it would be beneficial to 'find a way to keep me'. The posturing from Glen caught my team off-guard, and their protest about it to me, is what encouraged me to reach out to head office, to demand the party executives don’t hurt the party by allowing someone like Glen to circumvent accepted national party protocol.
The lackluster response from head office, the increase and aggression from party officials' rhetoric, and the exodus of grounded, intelligent and well-meaning individuals painted a very clear picture for me: the People’s Party of Canada were going to embrace this hateful far-right rhetoric. It was then that I felt like not only was there no longer a place for me in the party, but that Canadians needed to know about this cancer growing within the party, because our political environment doesn't need leaders that stray so far from our democratic institutions.
Concerns of Racism within Leadership
I am sympathetic to other people groups that these new leaders like Glen Walushka look down upon. I fear that this party is encouraging hateful, aggressive, and dismissive posturing in order to appeal to the worst tendencies in society. Strong and intelligent people of colour - or that don't fit the stereotypical euro-Canadian profile - that genuinely want to make the party stronger, people like Sabile Trimm, that contribute so much to their peers in the People’s Party, will their voices take second billing based on a few select individuals personal preference? Would they only be given titles without substance and no authority, simply in response to publicity like this? Will they have to rollover to people like Brian Lovig? This is worse than just political cronyism, the People’s Party has now effectively started an attack on the fairness and equality within Canadian politics, in 2019.
We cannot change people’s minds, but we have the ability to make a statement to the People’s Party of Canada, let them know that Canadians look up to them to set an example.
Those that grew up with the privilege of not having to experience systematic racism, may diminish my experience with the PPC to mere impropriety. I've shared my story to demonstrate that I've lived with personal and direct racial discrimination my entire life, I've always chosen to stay silent and rise above it, and I've been blessed to live in a country where the majority of people throughout my life have been warm, compassionate and kind. However this isn't just someone 'from a different generation' airing their grievances about how their small-town isn't quite the same as it used to be. We're literally faced with someone not only capable of expressing racist and hateful views, but that's lived in the political landscape long enough to be mindful to work-through and manipulate others for deniability, has racist allies with huge amounts of wealth, and a history of bullying people around. If Maxime Bernier was truly a leader, he wouldn't avoid this cancer that's spread throughout his organization.
- Incidents that should concern Maxime Bernier, the leadership, and all the members of the People's Party of Canada: