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UPDATE: Parents’ Voice says it’s filing a human rights complaint

BC Human Rights Tribunal won't hear complaint

"Xtra West is the best. Chinese media are all rightwing and twist my words [against gay people]," Charter Lau told Xtra on Nov 1. Two weeks later Parents' Voice issued a press release saying Lau is filing a complaint against Xtra's publisher. Credit: Shimon Karmel photo
Nov 28, 4:26pm

The BC Human Rights Tribunal will not hear a complaint filed by members of the Parents’ Voice Association who claim their human rights were violated by comments posted by xtra.ca readers in response to several articles on the Burnaby School Board’s passage of anti-homophobia policy and the parents who opposed it.

The Nov 16 complaint filed by Charter Lau, Belinda Bai, Chai-Wei Cheng and Heather Leung alleges the comments contained “vile, hateful words” that “target the complainant’s race, ancestry, place of origin and religious beliefs.”

The BC tribunal refused to hear the complaint, saying internet publications fall outside its provincial jurisdiction. “Human rights complaints regarding internet publications are within federal jurisdiction,” the tribunal notes in its Nov 21 decision.

“The Tribunal’s file is therefore closed and Pink Triangle Press is not required to respond to the complaint filed with the Tribunal,” acting registrar Jessica Connell states in the Tribunal’s response to Xtra’s request for a copy of the complaint.

The complainants had sought $7,000 each and an additional $15,000 to be paid to Culture Guard “to create an inclusive anti-bullying educational video about this case and the consequences of the unlawful use of published hate and threats.”

Kari Simpson is president of Culture Guard. She also names herself as “the complainant’s agent in this matter,” according to tribunal documents. 

  

***

Nov 21, 5:30pm

Const Lindsey Houghton of the Vancouver Police Department says Kari Simpson filed the complaint that triggered the investigation into Out in Schools.

“She’s a complainant in the police report,” Houghton confirmed in an interview with Xtra on Nov 21.

Simpson demanded an apology on Nov 17 after Xtra reported that she filed the complaint.

The conservative online radio host emailed Xtra a suggested correction entitled “Xtra Apologizes to Kari Simpson.” The suggested wording reads as follows:

“Correction — On November 17, 2011 Pink Triangle Press and its subsidiary Xtra did publish information that was false and misleading. The story quoted Lindsey Houghton from the VPD about a police investigation conducted into the Out In Schools program. In the same story the reporter stated that Kari Simpson had filed the complaint; this statement is untrue. Xtra apologizes to Kari Simpson for this error and any harm to her reputation that has resulted.”

“I did not file the complaint,” Simpson reiterated when Xtra reached her by phone on Nov 18. “I went to speak to Const Lott. I did not file the complaint.”

“We drafted the complaint. We didn’t file it,” she explained. “There’s a big difference.”

When asked who filed the complaint that sparked the investigation into Out in Schools, Houghton says, “Kari Simpson.”

“You’re aware that she’s saying that she has not?” Xtra reporter Natasha Barsotti asked.

“I’m well aware of it,” Houghton said. “And she called me and said that she didn’t. I pointed her to her very own press release where she says that she did.”

“After revealing that online gay porn videos and other forms of pornography are being promoted in some BC schools by an ‘anti-bullying’ program called Out in Schools, Mrs Simpson took her evidence to the Vancouver Police to file citizen complaints of possible Criminal Code violations by Out in Schools and the Queer Film Festival,” says a Culture Guard press release dated Sept 20.

Simpson is president of Culture Guard.

“In her complaint to the Vancouver Police Department, Mrs Simpson pointed out that if funders were deceived to obtain funds under false pretenses that would constitute a violation under the Criminal Code,” reads another Culture Guard press release dated Oct 5.

In a Sept 14 phone interview, Simpson also told Xtra that she filed the complaint.

“My understanding is that you were planning to lodge a police complaint?” Barsotti asked.

“And we did,” Simpson replied.

“Lodged with the VPD?” Barsotti asked.

“The Vancouver Police Department, yeah,” Simpson replied.

“I think you mentioned in the statement that there’s ‘possibly serious and criminal activities involved with the Out in Schools program.’ Is that accurate?” Barsotti asked.

“Sure. And that’s what we’ve asked the police to investigate,” Simpson replied.

Houghton says he’s confused by Simpson’s assertion that she did not file the complaint.

Asked for a copy of the police complaint, Houghton says he can’t release it. Xtra has filed a Freedom of Information request for a copy of the complaint, and will publish it as soon as it’s available.

Houghton notes the complaint is not a document but an electronic report.

The investigation triggered by the complaint revealed “no evidence or anything to suggest that there is anything criminal going on,” Houghton told Xtra on Nov 17.

The investigation was “concluded quite quickly,” he added.

—Robin Perelle

***

Nov 18, 4:30pm

Xtra has received communication from Kari Simpson saying she did not file the complaint with the Vancouver Police Department [VPD] against Out in Schools.

VPD spokesperson Lindsey Houghton told Xtra on Nov 17 that the police investigation into the complaint filed against Out in Schools had revealed “no evidence or anything to suggest that there is anything criminal going on.”

The investigation was “concluded quite quickly,” Houghton said.

Xtra reported that Simpson, a conservative online radio host, had filed the complaint that triggered the investigation.

Simpson says that’s not accurate.

She emailed Xtra a suggested correction on Nov 18. Entitled “Xtra Apologizes to Kari Simpson,” the suggested wording reads as follows:

“Correction — On November 17, 2011 Pink Triangle Press and its subsidiary Xtra did publish information that was false and misleading. The story quoted Lindsey Houghton from the VPD about a police investigation conducted into the Out In Schools program. In the same story the reporter stated that Kari Simpson had filed the complaint; this statement is untrue. Xtra apologizes to Kari Simpson for this error and any harm to her reputation that has resulted.”

“I did not file the complaint,” Simpson reiterated when Xtra reached her by phone on Nov 18. “I went to speak to Const Lott. I did not file the complaint.”

A Sept 12 press release from Culture Guard invited members of the media to attend a press conference where they would be “given password-limited access to details of the police complaint to be filed earlier the same day.”

The press release names Simpson as president of Culture Guard.

In a Sept 14 phone interview with Xtra, Simpson seems to confirm that she filed the complaint two days earlier.

“My understanding is that you were planning to lodge a police complaint?” Xtra reporter Natasha Barsotti asked.

“And we did,” Simpson replied.

“Lodged with the VPD?” Barsotti asked.

“The Vancouver Police Department, yeah,” Simpson replied.

“I think you mentioned in the statement that there’s ‘possibly serious and criminal activities involved with the Out in Schools program.’ Is that accurate?” Barsotti asked.

“Sure. And that’s what we’ve asked the police to investigate,” Simpson replied.

When asked for a copy of the complaint, Simpson said she was reworking it for the vice department at the VPD’s request but would email it to Xtra when it was ready, likely by the end of that day. She never sent Xtra the complaint.

But six days later, a Sept 20 press release from Culture Guard refers to the complaint. “After revealing that online gay porn videos and other forms of pornography are being promoted in some BC schools by an ‘anti-bullying’ program called Out in Schools, Mrs Simpson took her evidence to the Vancouver Police to file citizen complaints of possible Criminal Code violations by Out in Schools and the Queer Film Festival,” it reads.

An Oct 5 press release from Culture Guard also refers to the complaint.

“In her complaint to the Vancouver Police Department, Mrs Simpson pointed that if funders were deceived to obtain funds under false pretenses that would constitute a violation under the Criminal Code,” it states.

“We drafted the complaint. We didn’t file it,” Simpson now tells Xtra. “There’s a big difference.”

The complaint did not come from Culture Guard or any organization with which she is affiliated, Simpson adds.

“The information that Const Houghton was referring to must have been about somebody else,” she says. “I have no idea what complaint they’re operating off.”

“Natasha’s a good reporter,” Simpson adds. “I’m just very much a stickler for facts on these things.”

A call to the VPD to ask who filed the complaint they investigated was not returned by press time.

Simpson says she didn’t file the complaint because of the bias she perceived in the VPD.

Though she initially told Xtra that she went to the police station “to see what was involved in filing,” she later said, “We went with the intent to confirm let’s say the bias that we anticipated from the VPD. And we got that confirmation.”

Simpson says she has filed a complaint against a police officer.

She also says she is exploring other legal options regarding Out in Schools, but won’t reveal her plans. “You’ll probably get a press release when that happens,” she says.

—Robin Perelle

***

Nov 17, 11:45am

Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Lindsey Houghton confirms that an investigation into the complaint filed against Out in Schools revealed “no evidence or anything to suggest that there is anything criminal going on.”

Kari Simpson, a conservative online radio host, filed the complaint against the anti-homophobia program in September, alleging it is “designed to dupe parents and introduce children into homosexist politics and pornography.”

“Everything we could find when we were looking didn’t suggest there was anything illegal or inappropriate from a police perspective,” Houghton told Xtra Nov 17.

Houghton says queries were conducted with Out in Schools, its parent organization Out on Screen, and the Vancouver School Board.

“They asked us some questions and they determined that Out in Schools was not responsible for luring children with pornographic material,” Out in Schools director of education Ross Johnstone told Xtra Nov 16. “Really, it’s that simple, and that was the end of our correspondence with the VPD.”

“This is a very interactive, engaging thing where there’s no inappropriate photos being shown. [It’s] age appropriate; families, parents are well engaged,” Houghton says, describing Out in Schools. “This is a program that’s supported by many very high-profile and local businesses.”

The investigation was “concluded quite quickly,” Houghton notes.

 

***

Nov 16

Just days before Greater Vancouver heads to the polls, Burnaby Parents’ Voice (BPV) issued a press release Nov 16 claiming to have filed a human rights complaint against Xtra’s publisher, Pink Triangle Press (PTP).

The press release cites concerns about “hate and bullying that has been directed at Burnaby’s Asian and other ethnic communities since April.” Xtra has yet to obtain a copy of the actual complaint.

“The main concern is I have my photo published on the paper, and then the online comment is very hateful,” says Charter Lau, one of the complainants and one of five BPV candidates running for seats on the Burnaby School Board.

Xtra interviewed Lau for a Sept 8 cover story entitled “Back to Burnaby” in which he talks about his gay sibling and Chinese society’s reluctance to discuss “hot-button” topics like sexual orientation. The story followed several rallies that saw hundreds of parents, many of them Asian, protest the passage of Burnaby’s anti-homophobia policy in June.

At a Burnaby candidates’ debate on Nov 1, Lau praised Xtra’s coverage of Parents’ Voice and the conflict over Policy 5.45.

Xtra West is the best. Chinese media are all rightwing and twist my words [against gay people],” he told Xtra. “Xtra is unbiased — I was actually surprised.”

“My team doesn’t approve of me talking to you,” he added. “The more you talk the more you mess up. But my goal is beyond the election. The two communities can learn about each other more. I oppose 5.45 in a nutshell because it bundles things together.”

Now he says he hesitates to “go to the gay-concentrated area like Davie St,” because of online reaction to the Sept 8 story.

“If my picture’s there online and then the comments are still there and call me pig, call me to go home, or burn to hell, or drive our business out, or boycott us, maybe some of the very extreme gay people will harm me physically, so I am worried about that,” Lau told Xtra on Nov 16. “This is election time, so I guess this is a real threat to me.”

Asked why he didn’t file the human rights complaint earlier, Lau says, “This happened over time. It’s not just one day we wake up and decide to do that.”

“We don’t know what to do,” he admits. “So we ask around and then some of the friends help us to draft it and explain to us what is the procedure, and some of my friends and Heather [Leung] agree to it.”

Leung is president of Burnaby Parents’ Voice.

Lau says filing the complaint at election time is “a better time than the other time in the year.”

But he insists that it was not filed “solely for the election.”

Asked if this is a ploy to win election seats, Lau says no, repeating that “the timing is good, but we didn’t make it for the election.”

When asked for a copy of the human rights complaint, Lau says he will have to ask “my friend” Kari Simpson to see if it’s the “right timing for us to do that.”

“Who else? You look at the tone of the press release, no one else but Kari Simpson. I appreciate her help; she’s really helping us,” Lau reveals.

Simpson, a conservative online radio host, filed a police complaint in September against the anti-homophobia program Out in Schools, which she alleges is “designed to dupe parents and introduce children into homosexist politics and pornography.”

The Vancouver Police Department [VPD] contacted Out in Schools to follow up on the Simpson complaint, Out in Schools director of education Ross Johnstone told Xtra Nov 16.

“They asked us some questions and they determined that Out in Schools was not responsible for luring children with pornographic material,” he says. “Really, it’s that simple, and that was the end of our correspondence with the VPD.”

A call to the VPD to confirm was not returned by press time.

Pink Triangle Press editorial director Matt Mills says he’s read the BPV press release but says there’s very little insight he can offer until “we see how serious this organization is about filing this complaint and what becomes of it.” Mills says the truth will unfold in the fullness of time.

BPV is also filing a complaint against the incumbent Burnaby Citizens Association trustees, according to Lau.