Ray Goldenchild wants people to know one thing: he never attended any “anti-SOGI” meeting, and he doesn’t know why he was endorsed by similarly-minded groups in 2018.
The new board member for Vancouver’s Non-Partisan Association (NPA), who has since been named its secretary, is believed to be one of the reasons why NPA city Coun. Rebecca Bligh left the party Friday to sit as an independent.
But it turns out, Goldenchild was mistaken for Ron Hailey, another middle-aged Black man, who did attend a meeting in 2018 described by others as being anti-SOGI. And Goldenchild says the mix-up is damaging his own reputation and that of the party.
“This is a form of racial discrimination,” he told Global News Saturday. “This is not OK. This is not OK in Vancouver.”
In her statement announcing her decision, Bligh mentioned “the newly elected executive to the NPA Board having any affiliation with anti-SOGI” as her reason for leaving the party.
While Bligh didn’t name names, previous media reports noted that both Goldenchild and new NPA treasurer Phyllis Tang were both endorsed by the Let’s Vote Organization when they ran in the 2018 municipal election. The right-leaning organization was subsequently endorsed by an anti-SOGI website, bcsogi.ca.
On Friday, a photo began circulating on social media taken at a post-election “Faith and Freedom Celebration” secretly attended by a News 1130 reporter in November 2018.
The event reportedly celebrated anti-SOGI candidates who had been elected to city councils and school boards across Metro Vancouver.
The reporter claimed a source had confirmed to her that a Black man in the crowd wearing a striped shirt, whose back could be seen but not his face, was Ray Goldenchild. Tang was also pictured at that meeting, her face fully visible.
While Tang has confirmed privately to Global News that she was at the event, Goldenchild was baffled by the accusation against him.
“This is character assassination,” he said. “These people have defamed me. This is not good.
“To make a decision of that magnitude and to not get the full story, to not call, consult with me, get the other side of the story … it’s troubling for me.”
The man in the photo was actually Hailey, who met with Global News wearing the same striped shirt to further drive the point home.
While he admits he holds conservative values, Hailey — who was not a candidate for political office last year — says the mix-up is unacceptable.
“We all don’t look alike, and it’s the stereotypical view that a lot of people have and it’s disgusting because we are clearly two different people,” he said.
“To know that (Goldenchild) was wrongly accused, I couldn’t sit back and not say anything about it.”
Hailey shared a copy of his invitation to the event, which does not include any mention of the SOGI 123 program. An organizer for the event was not available for an interview Saturday.
Speaking Saturday, Bligh said her decision to step down was based on the broader right-leaning views of several newly-elected board members. Those include former Rebel Media personality Christopher Wilson and Ryan Warawa, who’s listed as the president of the B.C. Conservatives on the party’s website.
“I think the board has taken a socially conservative step to the right and some of the values that I hold near and dear to my heart are up for debate,” she said.
Bligh says she never talked to Goldenchild, Tang or any other board members before making her decision.
She also refused to answer whether she had heard Goldenchild or Tang make any anti-SOGI statements, repeatedly saying she didn’t want to point fingers at any individuals specifically.
“I support SOGI, I support the LGBTQ2 community, and I stand by my decision,” she said.
“During my campaign last year, I was endorsed by a number of groups. And I made sure that those groups that endorsed me lined up with my values. That’s my responsibility as a candidate.”
Goldenchild says he’s never made statements against the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification (SOGI) 123 educational program, which promotes inclusive extra-curricular activities and self-identification for LGBTQ2 schools in B.C. schools.
He says the issue never came up while he was running for the Vancouver Park Board last year.
“No one has ever asked my opinion on SOGI, no one’s ever interviewed me on SOGI, so I don’t know where they would be getting this information,” he said. “I’ve certainly never said anything regarding SOGI.”
Goldenchild says it’s not appropriate for him to comment on SOGI now. He adds it’s a provincial issue and it wouldn’t affect his work on the board or the actions of the NPA one way or the other.
“Our goal, our objective, is to serve the people of Vancouver,” he said. “That issue is not why I’m on the NPA board.”
In a statement, the Let’s Vote Association said candidates are recommended for endorsements “on the basis of our constitution.” Those candidates are generally found to meet pro-life and “traditional family values.”
“We cherish the good Canadian values and we will strive to achieve these pro-family, pro-life and pro-parental choice etc as listed in our constitution and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” the organization said.
News 1130 and the reporter have since apologized for saying Goldenchild attended the event. The photo has also been deleted from social media.
Goldenchild says he’s hopeful all outlets who reported his ties to anti-SOGI issue a similar apology, and is hoping to get back to work with the new NPA board.
He also wishes other members of the NPA caucus, who have come out in support of Bligh and criticized the new board, reconsider their stance.
“This is a party of inclusion,” he said. “No one has reached out to me to ask me a simple question: was that you?”