April 19, 2013 - 6:53 PM
Dayleen Van Ryswyk made national headlines this week when she was forced to resign as NDP candidate for Kelowna-Mission over controversial comments made on an internet message board four years ago.
Use that link to read her comments in full. She says they were taken out of context. She is all about fairness and equality. But at the same time, she says support for those comments have buoyed her to run as an independent. Many of her supporters thanked her for saying what they wouldn't say about First Nations issues, among other topics.
Today, she publicly threatened to sue InfoTel News and threatened to pull all advertising with this company before our story was even ready. We opted to present the interview in two forms. First, a version in Q&A form, heavily edited for length and brevity, followed by the unedited audio of the interview itself.
MJ: Do you care that (these comments) came up?
DVR: ...What I care about is the fact that people have labeled me a racist and a bigot based on some little snippets that the Ministry of Transportation and the Liberals very cleverly fed to the media. So that is all people saw for a long time and they based all their racial slurs… on these little snippets…. When people saw what I actually said, they weren't offended... (The B.C. Liberals) already tried to bankrupt my business and we survived so (they) might as well do a big smear campaign.
MJ: This isn't something you were (trying to hide from)?
DVR: No I owned up to it right away… I said that I stand behind what I said. I am not embarrassed by what I said. I am sorry—deeply sorry—if I offended anybody because that was never my intention. That is what bothers me if I hurt people or offended people. Some people said you are ignorant to these subjects or you never would have posted on them. And that may be true but... they are taken out of context.
MJ: This one issue (native rights and language rights) that you wrote about has brought you support from a lot of people. Are these then your constituents? Is that a view you feel you have to represent?
DVR: Well it sure seems like it because the people I have been talking to… that is how they feel. People may not want to say it out loud but this is how people feel about Native issues. They feel they have gone on long enough. They need to see an end to the pain. That was what my post was about initially. It's not that I don't think the natives deserve to have compensation…. In my defence, where I live, the Natives and First Nations that are here (in the Okanagan) are not living in the level of poverty that you see in other provinces. So my image back four years ago of First Nations is different from the image I have today. You see... things going on in Manitoba and other provinces where they are living in just deplorable conditions. That is outrageous and shouldn't continue. And you think of the amount of money being poured into Indian Affairs. And those people are still living like that. It's just insane in this day and age… it needs to be dealt with because if not, there is a division, a 'them and us' mentality. And (our) paycheques are going to pay for Natives and here we don't see Natives that are as poor as other places.
MJ: When I read some of the supporters of your message, a big theme is: "We don't want to pay for this anymore."
DVR: It is. People want to see an end to it…. The people (who) are getting money now are not the people who were harmed. Does that make a difference? It apparently does because people are all up in arms about it.
MJ: Do you think it should make a difference?
DVR: I don't know, that isn't for me to decide. But that is the question that is being put out there. That is why when I said (what I said)... that is how I feel. It shouldn't keep going on. People are twisting it, people are generally sympathetic and these issues should be taken care of, but there needs to be an end to it. It can't be going on for years and years and years. How many generations are going to pay for it? A hundred? And that is the question people are asking me: When is enough enough? And I can't answer that. I don't know….
MJ: Do you feel prepared to lead on some of these issues?
DVR: I might have to because nobody else is… one person said no one else has had the 'cahones' enough to do what your are doing and we applaud you for doing it. So maybe I am. When I came forward and I wanted to make a change and I wanted to inspire people…. I figured if I could inspire someone in my lifetime to continue on and make change and make things better for people then that is good enough for me…. I will take that and run with it.
MJ: If some of these issues are the flag you are carrying right now, did you have any intention of carrying this flag when you first decided to run for the NDP?
DVR: No, no this was... Yes and no really, because what I was running on was accountability... that's what led me to the equality part. I wanted people to be the same…
MJ: You said if people read the full (context of comments) they wouldn't have had the (impression of racism). I spoke to people who read the whole thing and they still have the same opinion.
DVR: Well everyone has different opinions…. I am not saying what I said was all touchy-feely because it wasn't. If I had thought back in 2009 that I would be running for any political office I probably wouldn't have even said anything at all. Or if I was going to say it, I would have made it all soft and fuzzy so it wasn't as blunt as it (was). That is not necessarily my opinion today.
MJ: You agreed with me that is the flag you are carrying today…
DVR: It is…
MJ: But now you say if you knew you were going to run for politics one day you wouldn't have even said these things?
DVR: Well, I don't know what I would have said. But when people are going (for) a career in politics they make sure that everything they say is very scripted… I never intended to do that. I have always been a very straight forward and blunt and very honest and that has resonated with all the people who wanted me to run in the first place. That is why I am still running now because I am the same person. I am only sorry that I said it in a way that offended people. I don't know what it is you are trying to make me out to be….
MJ: Have you ever done any research on First Nations issues?
DVR: It is not something that I have researched, no…. Would I say that I am an expert on any of these things? Not even close.
MJ: Have you ever been on a reserve?
DVR: I have driven through a reserve. And I have visited people on a reserve. I have never lived on a reserve so my opinion would be so skewed because I have never done it.... So I understand where people are coming from when they say you have no idea what it's like to live on a reserve. I don't. I will be the first person to admit that.
MJ: Do you know how treaties have been reached or what outstanding land claims remain?
DVR: No, I don't. To be perfectly honest with you, I don't. But if First Nations issues were dealt with we wouldn't have all the issues that are still out there. So there is still work to do. What that work is, is not up to me to decide.
MJ: Isn't it kind of part of leadership?
DVR: You want me to pick how to fix the First Nations issue? Nobody has been able to figure this out at this point and I doubt seriously that I am the one to figure it out... I am happy to meet with any Natives to see what their life is like, to hear their stories, to educate myself to make me a better person.
MJ: What if you did meet with some Native people and see what is going on and it changed your opinion? I ask that because obviously your constituents are looking for something from you and you just told me you have not done much research and these were just some idle opinions you had four years ago. It is now the reason why you have been doing interviews across the country today. What if your mind changed, how would you represent those people?
DVR: Well, you are giving an opinion on what the consensus of everyone is…
MJ: You must admit these are the issues that came forward and this was the lightning rod.
DVR: Well that is your opinion.
MJ: Hasn't it mostly been: 'We just don't want to pay for it anymore?' Isn't that really the thrust of it? Isn't that the thrust of what you said in your comments?
DVR: Yes, people want to see an end to it. Now what does that mean? Does that mean that there shouldn't be any money paid out at all or that we pick a date and that should be the end date? I don't know.
MJ: The end date of what?
DVR: Of paying Native land claims… I don't know what it is you are trying to make me a poster child for.
MJ: You have made yourself a poster child. This is what thrust your name into front page news across the country and why you have been doing interviews all day, because of these things you said. And now you have a following and you must admit the emails you got and the things that I read... they follow what you said on this forum and that is what is pushing you to the front. So I am asking if you are prepared to lead them?
DVR: That depends on your opinion of what they want. I am not going to step into whatever it is you are trying to get me to say.
MJ: I am not trying to get you to say anything. These comments come out and that gets you fame and recognition and this is the flag you are carrying as an independent. Now you tell me these were idle comments you were making. You don't have any background on any of this stuff and yet you say you want to lead based on this. I just don't get it. Can you help me with that?
DVR: Um, I guess I probably can. I will say it again and maybe it will be clearer this time. When I said the stuff I said four years ago… I said people should all be treated the same and continue to say that so I am not sure where you are going with that. I don't know what you think is resonating with people, they like that I said that … that I am straight forward. You are trying to make me a spokesperson for the constituents around here. You are trying to lock me into one opinion…
MJ: I am just asking questions. Part of my job as well is to put to you what other people are saying so you can respond. I have spoken to people who say you only chose the NDP because of a personal issue with the government and the B.C. Liberals.
DVR: This is a point of accountability. When they did what they have done.. and they admitted to trespassing and cutting down trees and doing all this other damage and they breached a contract and then they breached another contract. I have been holding them accountable.
If you sign a contract then you should honour a contract… you should uphold what you signed a contract for…. That is why I have pushed for this to be done because what they tried to do to me is put me out of business and put my family on the street. And I have a problem with that… I want my kids to see me standing up to people and not shrink down when government tries to put their foot down on you.
Part one of interview with Dayleen Van Ryswyk