Green candidate gets apology a year later

Helen Chang - NewsLeader file
Helen Chang
— image credit: NewsLeader file

Former Burnaby Green Party candidate Helen Chang finally has her apology, albeit a year later.

And after she filed a defamation lawsuit.

Chang was upset with an ad prepared by the Burnaby Teachers' Association (BTA) and published in local newspapers in November 2011 before the last civic election. The ad indicated which school trustee candidates the BTA endorsed and criticized those it did not.

Chang was cited for having run for office "under every banner except BCA (Burnaby Citizens Association) including the Liberals."

That's simply not true, Chang said in an interview. In 2005, she was elected school trustee as a member of Team Burnaby. The next time around, in 2008, she ran as an independent. In 2009, she ran in the provincial election for the Green Party of B.C. And in 2011, she carried the Burnaby Green banner.

Chang said that in 2010, she was approached by the federal Liberal party to run as a candidate in the 2011 federal election. But she withdrew her application for candidacy two months after she submitted it because she no longer felt comfortable  representing the party.

When she saw the BTA ad in the 2011 civic election, "it was quite a shock," Chang said, especially since the BTA had endorsed her as an independent candidate in 2008.

She complained to the NewsLeader and was satisfied by the prompt response and the correction that was subsequently published. When she contacted the BTA, she said she was told that the NewsLeader's correction would have to suffice.

At first, she thought she would let it go, she said, noting she is "very grateful" for the education her two children received in the Burnaby public school system and didn't want to make a fuss.

But political and legal advisers thought differently.

So, after several attempts at contacting the BTA for a resolution to no avail, she filed a defamation lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court on Nov. 16.

On Tuesday, Chang said she received a letter from the B.C. Teachers' Federation, of which the BTA is a member local, informing her it was placing ads in the local newspapers correcting their statement.

Indeed, in Wednesday's NewsLeader, an ad stated the BTA's original statement about her political background was incorrect.

"We unreservedly retract that reference and apologize to Ms. Chang for any detrimental impact it may have had on her reputation," it said.

Chang is satisfied with the outcome.

"I'm going to discontinue my defamation lawsuit because they promptly responded this time."

As for what impact the ad may have had on her election chances, Chang said

"it could have had a detrimental effect" among voters that didn't know her personally.

She finished in 16th place with 2.9 per cent of the vote, well out of the running for the seven trustee positions, which were all won by the BCA.

In any case, Chang said, "I want to say thank you to the BCTF because they promptly reacted to my request and I think it's a very right and very noble act to correct their mistake."

BTA president James Sanyshyn did not respond to an emailed request for an interview by the NewsLeader's deadline.

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