ParentsVoice BC to run slate of candidates in Kelowna wanting to ‘take back our schools’

The Central Okanagan Public Schools head office in Kelowna, B.C. Global News

A group called ParentsVoice BC is working to get school board candidates voted in across the province, and some say they’re doing it by masking right-wing ideology under banal messaging.

In Kelowna, Tovey Demman, Teresa Docksteader and Chris Fieber will be on the ballot for ParentsVoice BC, an electoral organization up and running in districts across B.C.

In West Kelowna, Laurie Bowen is on the ballot for the organization. If all were elected to the Central Okanagan School District, they would have a majority vote.

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Other than Docksteader, who made a number of anti-vax, anti-Trudeau posts on Facebook, there’s little online information on what each candidate stands for.

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With the exception of Fieber, who has no contact information listed, none responded to a request for an interview.

There are more high-profile candidates, however.

Among them is the organization’s president Marc Vella, who’s been an outspoken opponent of abortion in the past.

He is a former Conservative riding association president in Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon. He was elected to the Abbotsford Conservative Electoral District Association board in 2021.

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A group called Unmask the Right distributed a press release this week, pointing out others with similar ideologies.

It lists Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows school district candidate Brian Dominick, who in the past has described LGBTQ2-friendly books in school libraries as part of a UN plot and has called publicly for “globalist elites” to be “exterminated.”

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The website, however, indicates none of these views.

It says schools should focus on preparing students for a productive adulthood, not the trends of the day, and trustees should represent parents and the community, not special interests.

“Most of BC’s school boards are run by trustees who are there for staff, bureaucrats and special interests. They push their agendas ahead of the needs of our students and their futures,” reads the site.

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“ParentsVoice BC is a school district elector organization dedicated to electing independent candidates that will put the needs of students and families first. Parents are the true political party when it comes to their children’s education and upbringing.”

The idea that school boards are swayed by special interests is something that longtime Central Okanagan schoolboard trustee Moyra Baxter took umbrage with, but she also has concerns about a slate of politicians running and pushing a singular, non-inclusive view.

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“Before this group surfaced, when I first announced I wasn’t running, I said the one good thing our board has always had is independent trustees. And although we may have different political views, we’ve never had a group of people get together and run under a banner,” she said.

“It’s common in the Lower Mainland, but I’ve always appreciated that we don’t have groups here. We don’t all agree on certain issues, but at least it’s not a slate of people. I don’t think it’s good for public education.”

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Baxter, like others, has also come to learn that the local ParentsVoice BC candidates are connected to local anti-mask or anti-vaccine organizations.

“Because of the last couple of years and information we received from board meetings from certain groups involved with the anti-mask and anti-vaccine mandates, it appears that some of those people who we heard from frequently are, if not running, are supporting this group,” Baxter said.

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“It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that there’s a significant amount of people supporting them and working on their behalf on the campaign strategy. I think they have a plan. I’ve been told they are going out there talking to people trying to get support.”

The organization boasts that candidates running under their banner will get training, fundraising, a webpage, list management, financial controls, platform development, social media and marketing

In Vernon, there are also three ParentsVoice BC candidates: Sylvia Herchen, Jewlie Milligan and Nellie Villegas.

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