Three prominent gay community leaders are criticizing government backbencher Lorne Mayencourt's attendance at a fundraiser for Liberal by-election candidate Mary Polak - one of several Surrey school trustees who supported a ban on books depicting same-sex parents. But Mr. Mayencourt, who was recently listed as one of Vancouver's 25 most interesting and influential gay citizens by Vancouver Magazine, dismissed that criticism, saying he didn't hold Ms. Polak responsible for the ban.
In an interview, Little Sisters Book Store owner Jim Deva told us he found it "offensive" Mr. Mayencourt attended the fundraiser. But, "it's been par for the course for his entire term. He's never really stood up and defended gay and lesbian people in the house."
Vancouver lawyer Barbara Findlay agreed saying, "There was absolutely no need for him to be there. It was entirely a matter of choice. And he chooses (to attend the event) presumably because that will advance his own political fortunes. But it will be at the cost of the fortunes of the queer community he purports to represent."
And James Chamberlain, the teacher who sued the Surrey school board over their refusal to approve the use of three children's books depicting same-sex relationships in kindergarten and grade one classrooms, was also critical. "That fact that he's supporting Mary Polak's campaign is really disturbing to me because Mary Polak has been quite vocal in her opposition to equality for gay and lesbian people."
But Mr. Mayencourt has a different opinion of Ms. Polak. The Vancouver-Burrard MLA told us Ms. Polak supported the ban because, "She was acting as a responsible chairperson (for the school board). She had to respect the views of her fellow trustees. And she had to find a way of bringing them around to the notion of accepting equality and demystifying same-gender marriages. And she did that." So there's no reason why he shouldn't have attended the fundraiser.
Federal Conservative Gary Mitchell, a gay politician who ran unsuccessfully in Vancouver Centre during the last election, added "I find the word offensive, offensive," referring to Mr. Deva's comment. "I am so tired of special interest groups claiming that, unless their elected officials are single-minded in their deliverance of policy and issues, they're not doing enough - no matter whether it's the gay community or another community."
Mr. Mitchell then went onto add "Certain members of the gay community are out for Lorne's blood...He's been mistreated a lot. And this is another stab at him to boost the election chances of Tim Stevenson," the Vancouver city councillor who will likely be running against Mr. Mayencourt in the next provincial election. But he also made it clear Mr. Diva's criticism has nothing to do with partisan politics.
Mr. Mayencourt also pointed out the Surrey school district is the only one in British Columbia offering student books about same-sex marriages. The district added those books to its reading list when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled trustees didn't have the right to ban them on religious grounds. The case cost the district more than $1 million.
Mr. Mayencourt has won some victories for the gay community since being elected. Last year, he was instrumental in arranging a $100,000 grant for Youthquest, British Columbia's queer youth services organization. And this year, he managed to get them a cheque for another $35,000. But members of the community were disappointed when Mr. Mayencourt's safe schools task force failed to make any recommendations on how to protect queer students from bullying.
Mr. Mayencourt says he got to know Ms. Polak over the past year and a half because she was, "a very important player" in the task force. "And she was very supportive of the work I was doing on that. And I admire her."