Van Ryswyk apologizes but says comments were ‘misconstrued’

Former NDP Kelowna-Mission candidate says she has filed papers to run as an independent in the May 14 B.C. election.

Disgraced former Kelonwa-Mission NDP candidate Dayleen Van Ryswyk has apologized for comments she made four years ago complaining about aboriginal people and French Canadians.

In a letter to the editor published on page A11 of today’s Capital News, Van Ryswyk says she is sorry if her comments hurt of offended anyone. But she says they were made, in part, out of frustration she felt about First Nations land claims and says they were not quoted in their entirety and were “minsconstrued.”

“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 says in the letter.

“Unfortunately, I wasn’t very eloquent in getting that point across and could have been more sensitive in my remarks.”

In the comments she posted on a Castanet community forum in 2009, she referred to financial support for aboriginal people as “handouts,” said the “gravy train bubble” is about to burst, said she doesn’t feel her generation should have to pay for “mistakes of the past,” aboriginal people should get on with their lives and not “dwell on the past,” and said the debt non-aboriginal people owe First Nations has been paid “a thousand fold.”

As for French, she wrote in 2010 on the same forum that she was tired of having the language “stuffed down my throat” and French Canadians had to realize that “this isn’t Quebec, it’s Western Canada and we speak English here.” She said she was offended French was spoken first at the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

Her comments were described as unacceptable by NDP leader Adrian Dix, who  demanded and received her resignation as the Kelowna-Mission candidate Tuesday, and as “hateful” by Liberal Transportation Minister Mary Polak, who publicly called on Dix to fire Van Ryswyk as a candidate before he did so.

In her letter, Van Ryswyk accuses the Liberals of knowing about the comments weeks in advance but holding onto them until they could cause more harm and embarrassment to me and the B.C. NDP.

Van Ryswyk has had an ongoing battle with the Ministry of Transportation over road access to her business off Highway 33 and in the letter, she accuses the ministry of trying to “teach me a lesson not to stand up against them.”

In the letter, Van Ryswyk also apologizes to Dix, other candidates and volunteers on her former campaign team.

She says she will now run as an independent and has filed her papers to do so. She said she has had overwhelming support to do so since her comments were made public.

The NDP, meanwhile, quickly replaced Van Ryswyk with former provincial and federal NDP candidate Tish Lakes, who will challenge Kelowna-Mission Liberal MLA and cabinet minister Steve Thomson.