Vancouver political party says it’s suing UBC prof for defamation

Municipal political party Coalition Vancouver has announced it is suing UBC professor and Board of Governors faculty representative Charles Menzies for defamation.

In a press release issued today, the new right-leaning party announced that it has filed a suit against Menzies for what it described as “a hate-filled, bizarre, and widely disseminated email officially signed by Menzies.”

The press release says that an email by Menzies — which was also posted to his personal blog but has since been taken down — described Coalition Vancouver as “alt-right.” It added that Menzies said the party opposes the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) curriculum that aims to educate students about different sexual and gender identities, and qualified them as “extremists in anti-gay and anti-trans politics,” “fear mongers” and “engaged in discrimination.”

Coalition Vancouver denounced the use of the term alt-right, saying it aligned the party and its supporters with “Nazis and/or White Supremacists.”

“These words were meant to defame not only those individually mentioned, but Coalition Vancouver, it’s [sic] members and thousands of supporters,” its release reads.

Menzies’ legal counsel Alan McConchie indicated that Menzies had not received any notice of civil claim.

He wrote that “[Menzies] was exercising his right to political expression” in a written statement to The Ubyssey.

A spokesperson from Coalition Vancouver indicated that the lawsuit has been filed and will soon be available to the public.

The party is launching the lawsuit on behalf of its mayoral candidate Wai Young and three of its four Vancouver School Board candidates — Sophia Woo, Ken Denike and Ying Zhou. Zhou is also the current chairperson and resident director of the University Neighbourhoods Association board, where Menzies served as an elected resident director between 2012 and 2016.

Coalition Vancouver’s media release “questions” the motivations of Menzies’ criticisms against these specific candidates, “as 3 of the 4 targets of this attack were Asian, and female.”

“Dr. Menzies’ statements were in no way motivated by the fact that any of the candidates were Asian and/or female,” responded McConchie.

In the release, Coalition Vancouver indicated that Menzies’ accusations of the party being anti-LBGTQ+ were unfounded.

“Coalition Vancouver and its candidates support the LGBTQ+ community and its members,” reads the release.

Currently, Coalition Vancouver’s official platform does not mention SOGI.

However, two of the party’s school board candidates named in the lawsuit — Denike and Woo — were expelled from the Non-Partisan Association (NPA) in 2014 for comments they made about the policy. They then sued the NPA for defamation, claiming that the party’s media release framed them as homophobes.

During her time as a Conservative MP, Young voted against a bill that added gender identity and expression to identities protected under the Human Rights Act and Canadian Criminal Code.

Coalition Vancouver added in the release that it will be reaching out to UBC Board of Governors and other groups that Menzies are affiliated with to see if his comments are reflective of these groups’ official opinion.

But McConchie said that Menzies only made the comments “in his personal capacity” — not as a representative of the Board.

His personal blog also notes that “All things here represent his personal opinions, reflections, and commentary and should in no way be understood to express a view, official or otherwise, of the any institution that he may be affiliated with.”

UBC confirmed that Menzies’ comments were strictly his own.

“Dr. Charles Menzies is not the Chair and any comments made by Dr. Charles Menzies reflect his personal views. UBC does not comment on the personal views of its faculty members.” wrote UBC Media Relations Senior Director Kurt Heinrich in a statement to The Ubyssey.

Coalition Vancouver is a newly created municipal party led by Young that has drawn attention and criticism for its populist messaging — its slogan is “100% for the people” — and conservative political stances.

“These types of smug, ideological elites, with zero solutions, feel they can slander and malign without consequences for political gain,” said Young in the media release. “This has to end.”

None of the accusations have been proven in any court of law.