The election is over and the result was good. Thanks to all who voted for me, supported me or otherwise played a role during the five week campaign for school trustee in West Vancouver, Bowen Island and Lions Bay. I met many new people and learned a lot about the three communities that constitute School District 45. The campaign dynamics were equally engaging and I developed great relationships with the other school trustee candidates, current and former trustees and also made some new friends running for the various municipal councils in the district.
And now it is time to get to work. Together with Carolyn Broady, Nicole Brown, Sheelah Donahue and Dave Stevenson I will become part of the new board of trustees that will be inaugurated on December 2, 2014 at the district’s board office in West Vancouver. We have been elected to a four year term which will give us quite a bit of time to work for and engage with education and the many challenges it faces. Thanks again for giving me this opportunity.
Although trustee candidates do not get to speak, I will probably be handing out campaign material at this event tonight:
West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce - All Candidates Meeting
Date and Time: November 12, 2014 at 7:00 pm
Location: Kay Meek Centre, 1700 Mathers Avenue, West Vancouver
This is the last public event for the elections, the remaining days will focus on informal networking, checking to see that the election signs are still standing and possibly, I say possibly, an early morning wave at the Lions Gate Bridge on Friday morning. Thanks for all the support and probing questions so far, they have helped me greatly over the past few weeks.
This Tuesday I will take my children to the Remembrance Day ceremonies, just like my father used to take me to the remembrance ceremonies in The Netherlands where I grew up as a child. The memories of those events are vivid: a sober ceremony, some music, a speech by the mayor, veterans and survivors placing some wreaths in front of the statue on the square and a silence of two minutes followed by the national anthem. But as opposed to Americans, Canadians and British, our day of remembrance is May 4, the day marking the eve of liberation day; the day Canadian troops liberated the North and West of The Netherlands almost seventy years ago. But there is another more major difference between these two days of remembrance: most of the victims we commemorated weren’t military, but civilian.
I remember one time, I must have been about ten years old that I was standing next to an older man who was there together with a younger man who I had seen before in our hometown. The younger man was probably somewhere in his late thirties with dark black hair and, as it seemed to, somewhat mentally challenged. The older man started talking to me and I could not really follow what he was saying as I was trying hard to pay attention to the unfolding ceremony. So, all I did was smile to the man, nodding yes, and in effect politely ignoring him. As time went on it became evident that he was talking about the mentally handicapped younger man standing next to us. He probably had come to the conclusion I wasn’t paying any real attention so in order to grab it he all of a sudden cut right to the heart of his monologue and pointed to the younger man and said: “they made him watch the execution of his parents”. Somewhat embarrassed, I turned to the man and immersed myself in the life story of one of the few Dutch Jews who had managed to survive the Second World War.
And so it was in many Dutch households, where stories of suffering and survival were kept alive by a generation that had lived through five years of war and brutal suppression. My own family also provided its wartime narrative. There was the story about my grandfather who ended up in Buchenwald after he and a few enthusiastic would-be resistance fighters had naively compiled list of all the members of the team. That typical Dutch effort to get organized ended terribly when the list with names inadvertently fell into German hands. Or how my own father during the last few months of the war was forced to hide in a closet, while the streets were swarmed with Wehrmacht rounding up young men to work in Germany’s rapidly collapsing war industry. They were all stories that formed an integral part of the identity of our family, oral history in its purest form, delivered on to the next generation at the dinner table and at family parties. And in the days leading up to and after the May 4 commemorations they were usually recycled and enriched with long forgotten details.
So, after these Remembrance Day services had ended my father and I would casually stroll back to our house, leaving behind a square filled with floral tributes to the fallen. He would tell me that none of the unborn would ever realize what freedom really meant. In my childlike enthusiasm I firmly rejected this notion, but subconsciously I knew he was absolutely right. Not until you have experienced what it is to see entire families disappear from your street or to sit on a darkened attic for days on end to avoid capture, deportation and death, can one come to realize the true value of freedom. My generation learned to take that freedom for granted, use it or even abuse it.
As the generation of my parents passes on, the ones born in the first few decades after the war will be the last generation to have had some sort of direct link to the world war that ended in 1945. Both in Canada and Europe that generation is somehow tasked with preserving the memory of what it means to lose freedom as best as it can. That is why today I will take my children to Remembrance Day. So that they understand directly why Canadians landed on Juno Beach and why people from both sides of the Atlantic connected through mutual, if very different, experiences of totalitarianism. And yes, they will hear me talk about what happened to their grandfather, their great-grandfather and that poor black haired man who now most likely will have reached middle age, still tortured by the trauma and brutality he endured as a child.
There is of course more than just the spoken word, as today we gather around the more physical legacy presented by war monuments. One of the most impressive can be found in Amsterdam where former Dutch resistance fighter and poet H.M. van Randwijk’s succinct words immortalized the essence of losing freedom and the importance of remembering:
A people that bows to tyrants
Note: this text was originally a speech that I gave to the Lions Bay Remembrance Day ceremony on November 11, 2007. The text was published and I recently edited a bit, it was also published on Medium, here.
I have to say that I am quite pleased with the coverage that school trustee candidates are getting from local media. Here is a sampling:
The North Shore News has a comprehensive summary of all candidates in West and North Vancouver, you can find mine here. That is addition to the report they did on the first all candidates meeting a few weeks ago at the Kay Meek in West Vancouver.
That all candidates meeting was organized by the West Vancouver Citizens for Good Governance and I am deeply grateful for their endorsement. They too have published a Q&A on their website, with more information on my background and campaign.
I have also done a video taping for Shaw TV and their should be a Youtube link coming out for that shortly, as soon as I have it I will provide that link.
Locally, the Lions Bay Community News has published candidate profiles and mine is here and on Bowen Island the local newspaper, Bowen Island Undercurrent ran my ad in its latest edition. As more links and articles appears I will make sure to include them on this page.
Election events for this week are:
School Trustee All Candidates Meeting organized by DPAC
Date and Time: November 4, 2014 at 7:30PM
Location: Sentinel Secondary School Theatre, 1250 Chartwell Drive , West Vancouver
And on Wednesday we will be back on Bowen Island:
School Trustee Candidates to Meet with Bowen Island School PAC
Date and Time: November 5, 2014 at 6:30PM
Location: Bowen Island Community School
The Bowen Island meeting will start at 7:10PM for the trustee candidates as we will try and get on the 6:30PM ferry.
On Thursday the Kay Meek Theatre will be celebrating its 10th anniversary with a big event that starts at 8:00PM. This is not an election event, but it will be a good West Vancouver get together with many familiar faces. Hope to see you all there.
And advance voting will start on Tuesday, November 4. Remember, every vote counts!