3 min

Conservative Party sought Pride exemption, letter reveals

Vancouver Pride Society rejected party’s altered trans pledge form

Daily Xtra obtained a letter sent by the Pride Society to Tyler Golden, then acting president of the Conservative Party’s Vancouver Centre riding association, pictured here with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  Credit: Facebook

Despite conflicting earlier responses — first confirming, then denying the Conservative Party’s request for an exemption from signing the Vancouver Pride Society’s (VPS) mandatory Trans Equality Now pledge — VPS president Tim Richards now confirms that the party sought an exemption July 2 and then rescinded it July 10.

Vancouver’s 2015 Pride parade took place Aug 2. The Conservative Party did not participate. 

In a July 28 letter obtained by Daily Xtra, Richards writes to Tyler Golden, then acting president of the party’s Vancouver Centre riding association, again inviting the association to sign the pledge.

“With the 2015 Pride Parade and Festival just days away, we’re writing to again explain the Trans Equality Now pledge, and invite you to sign it, and march in Pride,” Richards writes in the letter, which he confirms to Daily Xtra is authentic.

“We received an official request for exemption from Robert Boyd, the president of the Vancouver Centre Conservatives on or about July 2,” Richards writes to Golden.

“On July 10 we received an email from you, the new acting president, formally withdrawing your request for an exemption. You stated that your board was meeting to discuss the pledge, and that you expected it to pass unanimously.”

The actions detailed in the letter seem to corroborate the tip that Daily Xtra received on July 7 that the Conservative Party had requested an exemption.

When Daily Xtra called VPS executive director Ray Lam on July 10 to confirm, Lam said: “The Conservatives applied for an exemption and we’ve been reviewing it. We haven’t made a determination either way yet.”

Lam said the issue had gone to the parade committee for further review.

Several hours later (within 30 minutes of the VPS apparently receiving a call from the Conservatives), Lam retracted his earlier statement.

“I was mistaken,” he said. “They applied to be in the parade and they’re in the parade.”

“There is no exemption request from the Vancouver Conservatives,” he said.

Asked why Lam reversed himself, Richards says he can’t speak for Lam.

Lam told Daily Xtra Aug 7 that he was away July 1–10, but declined to comment further. He referred further questions to Richards.

Richards says Lam was just getting back to work July 10 after more than a week away and may not have known what was going on. “I don’t know if he was fully up to speed,” he says.

“There was definitely back and forth between the organizations,” Richards says. “It was very confusing.”

In his letter to Golden, Richards acknowledges that Elaine Allan, the Conservative candidate in Vancouver Centre, sent the VPS an email July 17 entitled “CPC Pledge Alternative,” which outlined her support for the trans community.

“We again requested that your organization sign the complete Trans Equality Now pledge like all other political parties,” Richards writes to Golden.

On July 18, Richards writes, the VPS received a signed pledge from the riding association — only to realize that it had been modified.

“We subsequently discovered that someone from your organization had modified the pledge’s language without our knowledge,” he writes to Golden.

Daily Xtra obtained an undated pledge form with an attached exemption request purportedly signed by Boyd. The form lacks a section pledging support for changes to federal and provincial legislation to protect gender identity and expression.

Asked if the signature on the document is his, Boyd would not discuss the modified pledge or Richards’ letter.

“We have no comment on either of them,” he tells Daily Xtra.

He says he was away and Golden was acting president in his absence.

Daily Xtra contacted Golden via Facebook on Aug 7. He replied via Facebook that “all political related media inquires should be directed to the [Conservative Party of Canada] press office. He gave an Ottawa phone number.

Daily Xtra spoke to an Ottawa staff person on Aug 10, giving her both the documents plus two phone numbers and an email address for a response. There was no response prior to publishing this article.

In his letter to Golden, Richards refers to Lam’s July 10 published statements in Daily Xtra and says that Lam “assumed, in good faith, that when he was notified the pledge would be signed . . . that your organization would submit the original Trans Equality Now pledge, and not an altered version.”

The Conservatives have been at the core of debate over trans rights since subjecting Bill C-279 on gender identity protection to delays, amendments, and now allowing it to die on the parliamentary order paper with the calling of the federal election Aug 2.

The VPS clarified its stance on its trans pledge July 22 to require senior officials of all political parties to sign the pledge or lose their party’s spot in the parade.

“Not a riding association, not an electoral district,” VPS vice president Chrissy Taylor told Daily Xtra. “We had to make it clear it’s somebody with authority on behalf of the party itself.”

“We’re taking a hard line because it’s important to the trans community,” Taylor said.