Threats, Lies, Misuse of Public Funds, and the Non-Apology / by Team TIG
Team TIG’s Aug.10 article, Threats, Lies, and the Misuse of Public Funds, was about a written threat by the publicly funded employee of the non-profit Denman Island Bus Service (DIBS), Bronwyn Schuster, to withdraw publicly funded advertising from The Islands Grapevine (TIG) if its Publisher/Editor Mike Van Santvoord did not change its editorial policy.
The issue at hand is the misuse of public funds by Schuster and their breach of public trust. While there is no obligation to buy advertising from any publication, there IS an obligation for the publicly funded employee of DIBS, not to covertly attempt to extort changes to TIG’s policies using public funds. Failure to see this simple fact is evidence of a wilful bias, and the absence of an ethical compass.
Editor Mike immediately responded to Schuster, saying no changes to TIG’s editorial policy would be forthcoming, but offered an opportunity for them to contribute a letter to the editor for publication, as long as it followed TIG’s editorial guidelines. Schuster did not respond to TIG’s invitation. Until Schuster’s response to TIG appeared on Denman social media, TIG did not know that Schuster had not shared their threatening email with their colleagues, DIBS Coordinator Sam Borthwick, and DenmanWorks Chair Tony Gregson.
Last week, Team TIG reached out to Schuster and their spouse Sam Borthwick in the “collegial” manner Borthwick claimed they desired, and we came to an agreement that an apology from Bronwyn Schuster would appear in the Aug.24 issue of TIG, and subsequently be published by Schuster on Denman social media, where they had previously posted slanderous libel about TIG and its contributors. Schuster and Borthwick did not keep their promise.
When contacted about breaking our agreement, Borthwick’s reply was, “I said “for sure”, in an exchange between you and I. To me, that was an acknowledgement of your request, not a promise. Bronwyn, for a variety of reasons, did not want to make the post, and I can and will not force her.” As DIBS Coordinator, and Schuster’s immediate supervisor. Borthwick has every right to “force” an online apology, or fire them.
In their threatening email to TIG, Schuster erroneously claimed that a letter in TIG suggested that Drag performers were “child molesters.” This never happened. TIG did however publish a letter that defended Drag performers, making the point that Drag performers pose no threat to children (April 13, issue #1579). This is what Team TIG previously described as Schuster’s “distorted grasp of the facts.” Smearing someone with unfounded claims of bigotry is a form of violence against that person and their livelihood.
TIG has never published hate-speech in any of its vile forms, and will not compromise when it comes to its editorial policy. Evidence of hate-speech should be reported to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, but instead Schuster chose to attempt to extort TIG, and then publicly smeared its contributors on Denman social media, causing untold harm. Currently, Schuster’s proxies have been active on Denman social media, with wild threats to damage TIG’s business, amplifying TIG’s claim of damages caused by the slanderous libel.
In their online “open” response to TIG’s article, Bronwyn Schuster admits they were wrong for making the threat, and misusing their position, but continued to erroneously and publicly claim that Phoenix’s article in TIG presented a transphobic perspective. In the article TIG published, Phoenix made the case that transgender people are not to be blamed for anything, and holds the entire LGBTQ+ community with respect. Phoenix is being falsely framed with the accusation of hate-speech, and Bronwyn Schuster has “jumped the shark.”
Phoenix was challenging a change in Canadian law that makes it possible for convicted cis-male rapists to manipulate this new law in order to falsely identify as women for the purposes of creating opportunities to continue sex offending inside prisons. It would seem that no matter how clearly this distinction is made, it has triggered an unfounded claim of transphobia. TIG has never published transphobic content.
Phoenix provided reference to a study by Correctional Service Canada, on the Government of Canada’s website, which supports Phoenix’s claim and provides the statistics. Regardless of whether or not you agree with Phoenix or the Government of Canada, Phoenix’s article wasn’t transphobic; it was an expression of concern for the safety of both cis and transgender inmates from convicted cis-male rapists.
TIG has received an immense amount of private support from residents who are afraid to speak out publicly for fear of impact to their livelihood and social standing. Publicly funded employees must demonstrate integrity in performing their responsibilities. Bronwyn Schuster and Sam Borthwick are disingenuous in attempting to excuse their ill conceived words and actions.
Sam Borthwick claims it is he who does the marketing and publicity, but that he’s fallen behind in his work. If so, Borthwick should explain what paid marketing and publicity duties Schuster performs. As the paid DIBS Coordinator, Borthwick will now share responsibility for Schuster’s malfeasances, unless he requires Schuster to step down from their position managing the publicly funded DIBS advertising budget.