Trustee Alice. S. Wong announced on Monday she has registered for re-election as an independent candidate, and that she feels “guilty” about voting for SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) “by mistake” in June.
“I care a lot about children. Many new immigrants don’t know enough about the Canadian system and they need a trustee to communicate with them. By running for re-election, I can help them and serve society,” said Wong at a press conference on Monday.
Wong responded for the first time to her controversial June vote at a school board meeting in favour of SOGI, after nearly five hours of deliberation by people on both sides of the issue. Wong later told the Chinese newspaper Singtao Daily that she “raised her hand by mistake.”
“We had meetings since 4 p.m. on that day [till midnight] and I wasn’t feeling well. When the chair asked us to vote [in favour of SOGI or not], I thought we were asked to vote for the meeting to adjourn. So I raised my hand. I later realized, ‘oh no I made a mistake,’” Wong told the Richmond News.
Wong said she was “very unhappy” that the majority of the trustees voted to pass the SOGI policy at the time.
“It was just a discussion about the draft and there were more than 80 parents providing feedback. I understand that many parents hoped we could have more discussions about it. Why did we rush to pass the policy on that day instead of postponing it until September?” asked Wong.
Wong said school board policies can be reviewed one year after their passing. If parents or the public request a review of the SOGI policy next year, she thinks it should be “brought back to the table and decided on.”
When asked if she worries the mistaken vote will undermine people’s trust in her, Wong said, “yes, I feel very bad about it. I feel guilty.”
She said she would make a request at the school board meeting tonight to change her vote on the SOGI policy at June’s meeting.
Also attending the press conference were two new independent trustee candidates, who, Wong said share the same campaign and fundraising team with her.
Ivan Pak, an IT consultant, and James Li, a travel agent, announced their bid for school trustee in July after “feeling disappointed” with the school board’s decision to pass SOGI.
“The two sides of SOGI fought tit-for-tat at the [June] meeting. As a parent, it was very disheartening to see that. I think there should be better policies that don’t create so many social divisions like this one,” said Li.
Li said if elected, he would seek the reversal of the SOGI policy. He also believes Richmond public schools need to offer Chinese education.
“As early as nine years ago, people brought up having Chinese education in Richmond public schools,” said Li.
“Chinese is the most spoken language in the world and Richmond is the gateway to the Pacific. If our kids can learn Chinese at school, it will be beneficial for them to find jobs locally and globally.”
Pak said, if he is elected, he would like to emphasize a safe environment “for all students,” promote parents’ rights and discuss ways to better support parents who are not fluent in English.
“We need more comprehensive communication with parents on all educational policies,” said Pak.
“Some parents are new immigrants and feel nervous about participating in school events. We should provide more help to those parents, such as more bilingual-speaking staff and translated documents.”