Governing through a "gender lens" slows process, says Vision councillor

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

23 comments


Kerry Jang tells a crowd that citizen committees are creating silos – see video

So which is it? Does Vision Vancouver support the City's citizen advisory committees or don't they? I guess it all depends on which member of their caucus you ask.

During the last term of council, Vision raised a mighty big stink when the previous NPA administration attempted to reform the citizen engagement process. Former Mayor Sam Sullivan was continuously attacked by Vision Vancouver for suggesting that the citizen advisory committee structure needed some reforms. In the end the committees were restructured, but the NPA pulled back on major reforms that could have resulted in more meaningful citizen engagement.

Over the last few weeks, we've been unearthing some interesting videos featuring Vision Councillor Kerry Jang. It's pretty obvious that he's been suffering lately from a serious case of foot-in-mouth disease. Now it looks like he may have put the ol' size 12 in it – yet again. We've found another Jang video where he's sounding rather "NPA-ish" when it comes to his assessment of the value of citizen advisory committees.

Jang was recently speaking to a bunch of students at UBC regarding his views on the recent Maclean's article which discussed how US & Canadian universities were grappling with the perception of – as some US universities describe it – being "too Asian." Jang went off on a tangent and offered his opinion regarding the myriad of citizen committees council works with at City Hall.

He starts off by telling the UBC crowd he doesn't want anyone to misconstrue his comments as a "criticism" of Vancouver's advisory committees, and then proceeds to criticize them.

One thing I have learned at city hall that is very interesting. On the one hand we try to make sure everyone is included. So we have so many committees. Citizen advisory committees. This is not a criticism, but rather they start becoming unwieldy. Because you have to have a special committee for every special group. And it gets to the point where after a while it gets all mixed up and you end up building silos. The very silos you are trying to break down in Canada. It's by trying to recognize each group. So everybody would say "I'm putting my gender lens on today" or "I'm putting my ethnicity lens on today" as I'm looking at a city report. Even if it has nothing to do with it. They put it on and they speak at length about it. It comes to the point where you're trying to be too good you kind of slow things up.

As I listened to Jang's remarks, I couldn't help wondering what his COPE coalition partner Ellen Woodsworth would think about his "gender lens" remark. Or does Vision's George Chow agree with his comments about city reports being assessed against an "ethnicity lens"?

Ironically, just as Jang was making his remarks regarding citizen committees creating "silos" and slowing things up at city hall, his colleague Andrea Reimer was praising them in a Georgia Straight opinion piece. Unlike Jang, Reimer says she supports the committees, and even took a partisan shot at the previous NPA administration for daring to alter their scope during Sullivan's government.

Pictured on straight.com in a glum pose on a dock with her laptop on a sunny summer day, Reimer told Straight readers that Vision had a lot of work to do after they got elected back in '08. First off was "solving" the Olympic Village development issue (it's now gone into receivership), then addressing citizen advisory committees. She says:

Next up was dealing with the NPA’s shutdown of several citizens’ committees. Seniors, people with disabilities, multicultural communities, the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer) community, and women, who were shut out of city hall by the NPA, now all have committees specifically designed to give them a clear voice at city hall.

Funny how Jang goes out of his way to say that advisory committees are creating silos and slowing up the process, but Reimer is writing opinion pieces saying Vision couldn't re-establish enough of these "silos" within weeks of being re-elected.

As we've reported here in the past, Vision Vancouver has been openly criticized by dozens of community groups for not listening nor consulting with them before implementing their agenda. Whether it's the Hastings Park expansion or the STIR program, Mayor Robertson and his team have clearly not been willing to listen to citizen input. The most visible expression of Vision's distaste for public input came when Robertson himself was caught slagging citizens as "&#@%! NPA hacks" for merely coming to council and expressing their views.

So should I believe Jang or Reimer's position regarding how Vision Vancouver view their citizen advisory committees? Based on their track record, I'd say Jang's comments are more closely aligned with what the current civic government really thinks about the value of public input.

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comment below.

- Post by Daniel

23 Comments

Did you read the Macleans article Ken? The gist is that some people think that univeristies with a lot of Asian students (not defined in the article as I recall) are not a good place for students (implied that these are white students) who are more interested in partying and easy grades. UBC was identified as one of the schools in Canada. MIT and Harvard are seen this way in the US. Sounds like good company to me. The problem of course is that there is no meaningful group of people to call 'Asians'. Like you my wife is Asian (born and raised in Japan) and my daughter looks quite Japanese. I have plenty of friends who are third and in one case sixth-generation Chinese Canadian. Hard to get much more Canadian than that in Vancouver. The muddy thinking in the Macleans article makes it hard to have any meaningful discussion. Let's keep pur universities merit based.

Let's face it, there is big money made by universities opening their doors to foreign students.

You also have families that will send their kids to Canada to futher their education whether it be high school or university.

And as Vancouver has a large Asian population, it makes sense that UBC's campus would have a high Asian student ratio.

One of my previous co-workers whi is Vietnamese has her cousin's daughter staying with her while she attends/completes high-school. That family is paying $15,000/year in tuition.

No worries, Jang and Louie are on it. I read on CKNW that the are passing a motion to have MacLeans apologize.

Did Kerry Jang say (at 16:40 in the video), "I'm not like those Japanese guys, fuck those guys."?????!?!?!?!?

That doesn't seem like a good way to reduce racial tensions and make a "safe place", does it?

Well, perhaps when he is playing to a Chinese dominated audience at a Chinese dominated school (in the context of the recent anti-Japanese sentiment in China) he thinks it is a good way to win favour. How convenient.

On to the main point of the post ...

I assume that citycaucas.ca is lauding the diversity of opinion at Vision. It shows a party open to diverse ideas, which is a good thing.

But more to the point, what does citycaucas.ca think should be done with the city's citizen advisory committees? Any constructive thoughts for us?

Nice try of taking something totally out of context. Go back and listen again and note the audiance reaction. His point is right on, there is no meaningful generic group Asian.

"Lauding"? We do think Vision's confused message on these committees is notable, but hardly worth celebrating.

As a former member of one of these citizen committees, I know precisely the frustration Jang refers to. The committees in some cases serve a useful purpose, as with the Urban Design Panel, for example. Others, such as the Vancouver City Planning Commission, have lost their real purpose within the governance of the city. Many of these committees do little to really influence policy, and do provide barriers like Jang describes.

The big problem the committees face is not only their narrow focus and often deep political connections to the party in power, but the lack of time and support to conduct real policy work. The committees usually end up relying upon only a few hard-working volunteers while others barely contribute. Two meetings per month and a few other committee gatherings is not enough time. Many of these groups can't afford to hire someone to manage their affairs either.

Many of the committees should be properly reviewed so that those who do get involved can really make a difference.

@Steven did you fail spelling, or do you purposely spell the name of this blog incorrectly on purpose? You've been corrected by no fewer than 4 other commenters, but keep choosing to spell the name incorrectly. Back to school you go.

I think Vancouver's Japanese citizens deserve an apology for that intolerant comment by Jang. I can't believe this hasn't made it into the mainstream media yet? Did he really say "fuck those guys"? I had to listen to the video twice to confirm it. Shocking.

Many Chinese down deep do not like the Japanese due to the Japanese army killing more than 20 million Chinese in China during WW2.

I guess Jang's F-Bomb means he is on board with this sentiment as well.

As a Japanese Canadian, I am deeply offended by councllor Jang's remarks. A friend of mine sent me this link and I couldn't believe what I heard. Hard to believe this man is an elected politician representing people of Japanese heritage. I hope he will issue an apology soon, but not sure it will be accepted by the community.

J. Tanaka

Thanks Mike

Still not sure where you would take this. I think you are saying we should (i) have fewer of these bodies and (ii) that there needs to be a different way for recruiting people to these committees so that they are not so closely tied to the people in power.

Any thoughts on how you would do the latter?

I have been on a number of such committees at the federal level as well as for a variety of industry groups and I am afraid it is pretty normal for a small group of people to do most of the work. Not sure that anything will ever change that.

If these are to be volunteer groups I think it is hard to do more than two meetings per month.

Thanks Richard

www.citycaucus.com

Glad you are paying attention.

Anything to contribute to the conversation?

OK, I am pretty involved with the Japanese community and I will circulate this widely and see what people think. I don't think any insult was intended but I am open to hearing others opinion. The point that there is no meaningful category 'Asian' still stands.

I sat on a Sidewalk Task Force sponsored by the city several years ago. At the table were seniors, the business community, the health care community, disabilities lobby, bike lobby, engineering staff and others that unfortunately, I cannot remember.

Our mandate was to come up with a set of recommendations that would improve the pedestrian environment and to make Vancouver a walkable and livable city.

While the process seemed to take forever, at the end of the year, we had collectively signed off on a set of recommendations that is still valid, 8 years later. It took compromise, listening, understanding, respecting, and a will to find solutions that met everyone's needs -even if it meant giving up something of personal importance.

If an advisory committee is not tasked with a goal in mind, and is only left with the job of throwing comments without solutions from the sidelines - I agree, the process can seem frustrating and pointless.

One this topic, I agree with Steven...twice a month is as good as you will ever get and 2-3 volunteers doing all the heavy lifting... that is pretty standard.

I am very disappointed in Kerry Jang's comments. As a public figure he needs to give a little more thought to what comes out of his mouth. There is no excuse. In the private sector he would be fired for representing his employer in such a disrespectful way.

I read the Maclean’s article. I don't understand which part is unethical? Could anyone please point it out? I found it points out an interesting fact which everyone could learn from - giving readers a good dialogue. In reality, Canada is not a multicultural dream land of the so called, "Salad Bowl." We are still divided by race and/or cultural background. I would like to accept this reality and work toward more integration rather than getting upset and demanding apologies.

On the other hand, I had a problem with Councilor Jang's comment on Japanese. Why is he so annoyed by being called "Asian?" He wants to differentiate himself from "fucking Japanese" or Filipinos? The word "Asian" is used as same as "North American." I wonder if he hates to be called "North American" as well? I'm a Japanese-Canadian and also proud to be an Asian who is not afraid to see the reality.

Jang's offensive comment towards Japanese can be heard directly here: http://tiny.cc/jangjapanese

Please let your friends know how our city council views Japanese people.

Even said in jest, the comment is offensive and inappropriate. Jang should apologize publicly, if he wants to have any legitimacy in asking Maclean's to apologize for something far less offensive in their original article.

@Gregory:

And the Tiawanese do not like the Chinese.

So your point is???

FYI - the Chinese have not been innocent over the centuries when it comes to war or even basic humanity towards their own people.

How many peoples died under Chairman Mao?

More recently, how many people have died from melamine poising? And that is a lesson they still haven't learned because there are incidnents still taking place.


this is getting creepy.

I agree with Julia. It would be helpful if people stuck to the topic of discussion and left the Macleans article discussion for another post.

Ken, your posts are racist and almost as offensive as Jang's. not sure how this is helping the conversation.

I completely disagree with Ken Lawson on who should be at Canadian universities. The Canadian economy is best served by attracting the smartest people from anywhere in the world come to Canada for their education and helping them to settle and find jobs here. That is what is in the best long-term interests of Canadians and it is what will drive economic success.

The fact is that Jang and Vision are about to compound one wrong with an even bigger wrong. Government has no business censuring the media in a democratic society.

Macleans has, I believe, rightfully faced public criticism for what it wrote and sparked debate. But when a government decides to use its power to hold media or reporters to contempt, they enter the territory of tyrants and human rights abusers. That's where Vision is headed right now.

Vision would be wise to drop the matter entirely.

Bad choice of words.

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