Open Letter: Chinatown Action Group Condemns De-Platforming of and Attacks on Organizer Yuly Chan

To Organize BC and Vancouver & District Labour Council (VDLC):

We are outraged at your decision to cancel the May 4 evening panel because of false accusations over invited speaker and CAG member, Yuly Chan. Your decision to cancel the keynote panel has legitimized a handful of bullies who have been targeting a working class woman of colour organizer. Your decision legitimizes racist and sexist abuse and harassment of a respected organizer in our community. Instead of bringing collective unity to our movements — the stated intention of Vancouver Crossroads — your actions have done the opposite: rupturing and destroying the reputation and trust of marginalized community members.

We are appalled at the defamation campaign against Yuly, and are particularly infuriated and disappointed with Organize BC who refused to move forward with the panel due to Yuly’s participation in the event and openly sided with the individuals who have been harassing and bullying Yuly. A group known as CATA (Coalition Against Trans Antagonism), which consists solely of three individuals — Vanessa Bui, Tami Cameron, and Kai Rajala — have been perpetrating slander and harassment since Yuly was invited to speak a month ago. None of these individuals have ever approached Yuly in person or online to understand her politics or position in good faith. Instead, they used “hearsay,” selective, out-of-context tweets and past activities from a basic internet search of Yuly. Their accusations are untrue, vindictive, and based on a superficial understanding of her analysis. Their use of words such as “supremacist” and “fascist” in their baseless accusations is irresponsible and demonstrates a lack of understanding of the histories of violence from actual supremacists and fascists. Rather than targeting actual white supremacists, class oppressors, and fascists, they’ve selected to target a working class woman of colour as their sole campaign.

When these online attacks against Yuly began, Peter Gibbs and Laura Cuthbert of Organize BC were hostile in confronting Yuly about her position regarding sex workers and transgender people before attempting to understand her perspective or the broader situation. Yuly was forced to repeatedly explain that she has never engaged in any anti-trans or anti-sex worker actions. Yuly had also drafted a statement that was circulated to the event organizers that clarified the nature of her previous work, which was rooted in a political economy approach of the sex trade that included women who were actively or formerly involved in the industry. In fact, Yuly had been invited to speak on the topic of grassroots organizing in Chinatown and how the struggle against gentrification is central to an agenda regarding the future of Vancouver. Trans rights and the sex industry, while important issues, are not central to her work in Chinatown.  

Instead of building space for principled criticism and collective unity — what real organizing aims to do — Organize BC and VDLC caved to pressure from online sycophants and opportunists and allowed them to wreak havoc on Yuly’s reputation, betraying their name and mandate. We are appalled by the fact that Organize BC publicly apologized to CATA while having never acknowledged the harassment and hostility that Yuly has endured daily for the past month, which will continue to have an effect on her emotional and mental well-being as well as future opportunities for a working class woman of colour. CAG members are being used as a scapegoat for disagreements between the labour movement and the broader left that was neither started nor reinforced by us. The fact that labour leaders felt pressure by a few emails from CATA to remove Yuly from the keynote panel shows the inability of the labour leadership to confront conflicts in a principled, thorough, and transparent manner.

An attack against Yuly is an attack against Chinatown Action Group and the community of working class Chinese residents that we serve. Your actions silence the leadership and participation of Chinese working class residents in a united front to improve the future for all in Vancouver. Instead of encouraging an environment where principled debate and alliances can exist, you normalize a culture that shames individuals and shuts down debate when there are misunderstandings and differences. Bullying, harassment, and slander is not real organizing. Condoning such tactics destroys our collective movement and will not bring about the unity that is urgently needed to solve the many crises we face in the city.

We invite others to join us who are genuinely interested in grassroots organizing through building each other up, finding common ground, and transforming ourselves through constructive criticism and debate. CAG will not tolerate attacks by CATA, Organize BC, and the organizations and individuals that support them. We call on our allies to condemn these attacks and reject any group or individuals perpetrating this type of harassment towards CAG organizers, including the removal of any posts that target Yuly and CAG.  

We ask our supporters to stand with us and share this letter widely.  We encourage supporters to send letters to Organize BC (email: peter@organizebc.ca, laura@organizebc.ca) and the VDLC (president@vdlc.ca) with your concerns about their actions in condoning harassment and abuse and the implications of de-platforming a speaker due to baseless accusations.

Chinatown Action Group

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