Dear West Coast LEAF community,
We are saddened to learn that the keynote speaker at our recent Equality Breakfast is the subject of sexual misconduct allegations. We take these allegations against Dr. Willie Parker very seriously.
When we choose an Equality Breakfast keynote speaker, we do our due diligence to ensure that a person’s life and career are in line with our values and that they have acted and have advocated for the principles of substantive equality. This allegation has come to light since this year’s Equality Breakfast. Now that this accusation has surfaced, we want to reiterate our commitment to hold people in positions of leadership and power to account. We also want to reaffirm our commitment to reconciling justice and equality for survivors with due process for all.
In the last few years, our society has been undergoing a great reckoning. The MeToo movement is a powerful reminder of what we can achieve when we speak truth to power. It also reflects how far we need to go before we dismantle patriarchy and achieve substantive equality. In this context, it is critical to believe survivors.
We know that there are deep structural flaws that create barriers to reporting sexual assault to the justice system. At West Coast LEAF, we are actively engaged in law reform work to dismantle those barriers. We believe that a survivor’s right to have their dignity protected in the criminal justice system is not only compatible with due process and the right to a fair trial, but it is in fact essential. The principle of justice requires us to centre the lived experiences of survivors as they describe the devastating impacts of sexual assault, impacts which are all too often exacerbated by the legal system’s inadequate response. It is clear that the system is not working for survivors, as we heard from the women we spoke with for our We Are Here report.
Our Equality Breakfast was an uplifting and inspiring event and we are so grateful that many of you attended and made significant contributions to help advance gender equality. The generous support of our community will help us continue the difficult work of making a more equal BC.
We are unwavering in our determination to ensure that the system works better for those who courageously come forward, and to ensure that the system is coherent in its dedication to justice, fairness, equality, and due process. Our movement to dismantle patriarchy and advance equality deserves no less.
Kasari Govender, Executive Director