Politics in B.C. can be rough. But one Kelowna-Mission independent candidate is ensuring her safety by having a bodyguard on hand at all times during the campaign.
Former NDP candidate Dayleen Van Ryswyk, who was forced to resign by the party after comments she wrote four years ago on an online forum complaining about First Nations and French Canadians came to light, says she has hired a bodyguard because of threats she has received online.
“My husband is very protective of me and wants me to be safe,” Van Ryswyk told the Capital News when asked about the large male bodyguard she has hired. While being interviewed following an all-candidates meeting at a Mission-area elementary school, the bodyguard stood by, watching the reporter.
The next day, as Van Ryswyk took part in another all-candidates meeting—this one sponsored by the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce—her bodyguard sat at the back of the room.
While Van Ryswyk seemed happy to talk about her need for protection, her bodyguard, who was not identified, said he does not use that term to describe the work he is doing. He simply says that he provides security.
He did not say if being a bodyguard is his full-time job but said he has does provide security at local nightclubs.
Van Ryswyk has denied accusations of racism concerning remarks she penned in 2009 on a Castanet community forum titled Strip Them Of The Status Card. The forum was started by another writer upset that a non-native person on the Westbank First Nation reserve had used a WFN member’s status card to buy goods without paying tax.
In her comments on the forum, Van Ryswyk said she is tired of aboriginal people receiving “handouts” from the government, feels the “gravy train bubble” is going to burst for aboriginal people in B.C. and feels the debt owed to B.C. First Nations has been repaid “a thousand fold” by her generation. She also said she does not feel her generation should be held responsible for the mistakes of the past.
A year later, on the same forum, Van Ryswyk complained about French being used at the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games and said she was tired of French being “pushed” down my throat.”
“This isn’t Quebec, it’s Western Canada,” she wrote. “We speak English here. So does the majority of Canada. I’m offended that (the) French is spoken first. Why can’t we celebrate Canada’s diverse cultures, everyone, not just natives!”
After the B.C. Liberals publicly protested the comments, calling them hateful, NDP leader Adrian Dix asked for, and received, Van Ryswyk’s resignation as the Kelowna-Mission candidate. He called the comments unacceptable. Van Ryswyk was was replaced by Tish Lakes and is now running in the riding as an independent candidate.
On Friday, at the chamber all-candidates’ meeting,Van Ryswyk accused the Liberals of “making an example” of her by bringing attention to her four-year-old comments. She called it a smear campaign.
And she even quoted Okanagan First Nation leader Grand Chief Stewart Philip of the Penticton Indian Band, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, in criticizing how the Liberal government has tried to woo ethnic voters in thes election.
On Thursday, she said as a result of the controversy, comments were made on Twitter that she felt threatened by and that’s why she hired the bodyguard.
She added the threats have, for now, changed how she lives her life, but did not elaborate.
Van Ryswyk was not aware of any other candidates at the provincial or federal level who had hired bodyguards for protection during campaigning.
Despite the threats, though, she said she has received a lot of support as she knocks on doors in the riding.
Following her resignation as NDP candidate,Van Ryswyk issued a public apology to anyone offended by her comments.
“I have always championed for equality and fairness for all people, not just those in Canada. I strongly believe that land claims issues and First Nations have not been treated fairly or with respect and my complete comments reflect that,” she said in an open letter published in the Capital News last week.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t very eloquent in getting that point across and could have been more sensitive in my remarks.”