NEWS

Ken Denike, Sophia Woo, former school trustees sue NPA for defamation

12/19/2014 09:00 EST | Updated 02/18/2015 05:59 EST
Two former Vancouver school trustees are suing the Non Partisan Association for defamation.

The party expelled Ken Denike and Sophia Woo from the caucus earlier this year after the pair went against party lines on the Vancouver School Board's planned revisions to the transgender policy. 

In a B.C. Supreme Court notice of civil claim dated Dec. 17, Denike and Woo claim they've been branded as homophobes and now demand an apology from the NPA and councillor Elizabeth Ball. 

"As you can well imagine, there are people that hear the reports and assume that there's some truth to it, which there is not," Denike said. 

Read the notice of claim here.

Gender-neutral concerns

The notice of claim stems from the fallout of a press conference by Woo and Denike, in which they raised concerns about the VSB's plan for a gender-neutral washroom. 

At the news conference, Denike and Woo told reporters that Realtors are concerned about the transgender policy's potential negative impact on the enrolment of international students as well as public school students on Vancouver's West Side.

Denike also said an enrolment decline could have an impact on school budgets and called for a delay in policy revisions in order to provide more information to alleviate those concerns.

"We would not want that to happen inadvertently just because we're not taking the sufficient time to have consultation with parents, with the population and to go through and explain why these changes are likely necessary," he said at the time.

The claim cites a statement the NPA put out in the hours after the press conference, explaining their decision to expel Woo and Denike. 

"The decision to expel Denike and Woo was necessary given that the two have chosen to follow their own course in various matters without consulting other members of caucus," the NPA said in a news release.

"The caucus has concluded that Denike and Woo do not share the same level of sensitivity and understanding of the LGBTQ community."

Woo and Denike claim in their notice that the NPA press release suggests they are homophobic. 

As part of the claim, the pair are also suing NPA councillor Elizabeth Ball for comments she made on CBC"s On The Coast on June 13, 2014 following their news conference. 

"On an issue that is so critical to so many of us in our caucus ... we simply do not feel the two commissioners [Woo and Denike] share the sensibilities that the rest of the caucus feels and there it is not possible to work together any further," she said on the show.

"I think it's extremely sad that anybody in the community has been hurt, affected or has been led to misunderstand how the majority of the elected officials feel."

Both Denike and Woo ran unsuccessfully for re-election in October and now with the race over, they want to set the record straight. 

None of the claims have been proven in court. 

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