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Richmond Hill Deputy Mayor Godwin Chan’s apology ‘not enough,’ says Pflag York Region

Councillor seen applauding ‘discriminatory words’ by federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre at event, group says
Melissa Wallace
Nov. 14, 2023

Pflag York Region is calling for Richmond Hill Deputy Mayor Godwin Chan to resign unless he issues a public apology demonstrating an understanding of the nuances of his actions last week.

On Nov. 5, Chan attended a Chinese community meet and greet with Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) leader Pierre Poilievre at the Sheraton Parkway Toronto North.

In a video by the Western Standard, Chan is seen nodding and applauding during Poilievre’s speech, including during a part where Poilievre said, “Justin Trudeau does not have the right to impose his radical gender ideology on our kids and on our schools."

Tristan Coolman, president of Pflag York Region, sent a letter to Richmond Hill councillors on Nov. 10 sharing how Chan’s actions not only hurt, but angered the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

“The rhetoric from Mr. Poilievre is what we have come to expect,” read the statement. “What is shocking is the sight of our deputy mayor at this event and on stage with body language indicating his agreement with Mr. Poilievre’s discriminatory statement. The presence of anyone with such a title, especially our deputy mayor, apparent to nod and clap at the notion of ‘radical gender ideology’ is absolutely abhorrent.”

He explained terms such as “radical gender ideology” and “parental rights” are words used to discredit the rights and freedoms of 2SLGBTQIA+ people.

“Our identities are not ‘ideologies’ nor are they up for debate. These are real people, with real lived-experience who continue to face many forms of inequities in our city, province and country.” Pflag asked for Chan to respond and called for his resignation should he not provide a satisfactory explanation.

The following day, Chan released a statement apologizing for his actions that may have been viewed as hurtful and emphasized his personal beliefs do not reflect those of council or the City of Richmond Hill.

“My reaction was based on reflecting on my own belief that minor children would need parental consent for undergoing surgical procedures for gender changes,” said Chan. “I am committed to learning more about gender issues and challenges the 2SLGBTQIA+ community face every day, and will work with Pflag Canada York Region and others to further that knowledge and understanding.”

That explanation was “not enough,” wrote Coolman on Nov. 12. “Your applause and nod of approval provides legitimacy to the generalized and frankly bigoted statement from the CPC, from someone running to be the next prime minister of our country.

“It further legitimized his position in front of the residents of Richmond Hill, people who could very well be neighbours of mine who went home thinking there’s something wrong with how we approach so called ‘gender ideology’ in our country. Who will associate that term with trans folks and think this is just a phase for them. Who may impart that feeling onto members of their family, their kids who may come out to them.”

Coolman reiterated his call for Chan to resign unless he issued a public apology demonstrating he truly understood the meaning behind his actions.

In response to Chan’s conduct and Pflag’s statement, Richmond Hill Mayor David West issued a statement on behalf of the city assuring the community that council values inclusivity.

“I want to assure everyone that lives in Richmond Hill that our council believes it is important to create safe and inclusive spaces for all members of the LGBTQ2IA+ community and for all residents,” he said. “I encourage all members of council, including deputy mayor Chan, to better educate themselves and invite organizations like Pflag to come in and meet with them so they can better understand the issues their members face on a daily basis and what they can do to be better allies.”

Richmond Hill Coun. Karen Cilevitz, Ward 5, is the mother of a gay adult son and “friend of many” in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, she said.

She found Chan’s actions to be abhorrent and an utter disgrace.

“I denounce his actions and decry any bigoted actions and/or speech, be it couched or otherwise, which may in any way negatively reflect upon or adversely affect the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, anywhere at anytime."