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Letter from the Board President to the Community

Words matter. Context matters. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association supports the cherished right to free expression, and as an organization we want our messages to be clear. A tweet by our executive director on her personal account failed in that regard.

Using a particular turn of phrase in that context left some people with the wrong impression about the values and principles to which we adhere.

We regret the misunderstanding that was caused by the tweet and apologize for the harm the words caused.

Further, we acknowledge the anger, frustration, and sadness many people feel after the confirmation of over 1000 unmarked graves of Indigenous children at various residential school sites. We share those emotions and share in the desire to dismantle the colonial systems that commit genocide.

During the aftermath of the tweet, we encountered a wave of hateful commentary, fueled by the fact that our executive director is a racialized woman leader. Our executive director and staff were exposed to inexcusable racism and misogyny and threats to physical and mental safety. We did not engage with those voices and are prioritizing the health and safety of staff. We have also taken time to gather feedback within our organization and with our community partners. These events have been difficult, but we are emerging stronger and more committed to our work. We are back with the same fearless truth-telling that our supporters and detractors know us for.

Our mandate is to promote, defend, sustain, and extend civil liberties and human rights for all. Those rights and liberties include the security of the person, freedom of religion and freedom of expression. As a legal organization, we work within the law to advance this mandate.

The BCCLA also recognizes that, despite the inherent and inalienable rights of Indigenous peoples, and the recognition of those rights within the Canadian Constitution, the colonial legal system in which we work continues to deprive Indigenous peoples of their lands, freedoms, rights, autonomy and dignity. We affirm that Indigenous laws and the inalienable right to self-determination continue despite the Crown and the federal and provincial governments’ attempts to suppress them.

The BCCLA is committed to the full realization of the rights of Indigenous peoples, and to the pursuit of a just, equitable and durable reconciliation between Indigenous Nations and the Canadian state. The BCCLA is committed to upholding its promise to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and Calls to Action.

The BCCLA often takes controversial positions in defence of civil liberties. We remain resolute in our conviction that our work can never be challenged as partisan.

It is with these essential values that we have evolved and achieved great progress over six decades in the defence of civil liberties and human rights in Canada, and with which we will continue to do this work for decades to come.

We recognize the importance of communicating these values clearly and without compromise.