Islands Trust trustee accused of inappropriate behaviour

Several women come forward to complain about Hornby Island trustee Tony Law

*Update as of Oct. 26 11:45 a.m*

Longtime Hornby Island Islands Trust trustee Tony Law has announced his resignation.

According to Alex Allen, the Island’s other council member, Law announced his resignation as trustee and chair of the Trust Fund Conservancy board Thursday evening.

According to Section 54 of the Local Government Act, a by-election is required to be held within 80 days.

• • •

A Hornby Island woman has accused longtime Islands Trust trustee Tony Law of inappropriate behaviour.

Wrena Holliday posted on the ‘Word of Mouth – Hornby Island Talk’ closed Facebook group that Law has made many young women uncomfortable, including herself.

She made the statement shortly after Law was re-elected to the Islands Trust council in the Oct. 20 election.

The post garnered significant attention from other members of the group, as other women stepped forward to share their concerns or interactions with Law.

“I’m very surprised that our community is turning a blind eye … I think we as a community should be discussing this issue and not ignoring it. I know that there are more people who feel this way,” wrote Holliday in the post.

“I feel if I don’t say something then I am just part of the problem. I have been a part of this community my whole life and care deeply for it,” it continued. (Scroll to the end of this story for the full image of the post).

In an interview with Black Press, Holliday said a lot of people have talked about Law’s behaviour, but it has been considered “hush-hush” around the Island.

“I wanted to pave the road for people to feel comfortable to speak out and share their stories. It was a total shot in the dark,” she explained.

“I didn’t know how many people would be behind me. It was a nerve-racking thing to do, so I figured that Facebook is the safest and most comfortable place for me to open this discussion with the community. I think a lot of people have a lot of pride and have been in denial that they would support someone like him and don’t want to believe the truth.”

She added as a community, she believes people are afraid.

“I think once someone does something, then more people are likely to say something, and in the future, I hope that me speaking up will help other people to do the same.”

• • •

Black Press has communicated with Tony Law and he has chosen not to comment on this story.

In a response to Holliday’s post on the Facebook page, a Facebook profile using the name Tony Law did reply on the Word of Mouth group and said he has read every comment, and honours Holliday and others for having the courage to “speak their truth, even while it is obviously difficult for me to hear.”

“I have to take responsibility for making others feel uncomfortable, even though it has never been my intent. I am generally very caring about others’ well-being, but it has taken longer than it should for me to realize there was an unconscious pattern that was having the opposite result. For this I am deeply sorry to all involved.”

He continued: “The last few years, it has become clear to me that there is indeed a pattern that needs to be addressed. I am getting help. It is something I am focussed upon on a daily basis.”

Law said, “like many men, I am a mixed bag.”

He noted he tries to be a feminist who strives to be supportive of women.

Until recently, Law was a couchsurfing.com host. Couchsurfing.com is a shared accommodations website, used to connect travellers from around the world. (His profile is no longer visible on the site.)

He referenced dozens of positive reviews from couch surfers who stayed with him. He noted his nickname was “Mama Tony” because he always tried to make them feel comfortable, and many have come back to stay a second, third or fourth time or recommended their friends to stay.

Law explained it is clear what he is sometimes putting out is “experienced as creepy and I deeply regret that I have not been aware enough to pick up on that.”

“Many women are finally speaking out as part of the ‘Me Too’ movement. In response, men often deny, rationalize of justify their behaviour. I am not going to do that.”

Law said he is a man who has not taken care to always be appropriate, and acknowledges his past behaviour has made women uncomfortable.

He added he is mindfully working on change, but realizes this doesn’t undo past experiences. He said he is willing to participate in a process, such as a restorative circle, that might help to address the issue.

Law has been an Islands Trust trustee for seven terms; local trustees serve their position for four years.

The Islands Trust is a federation of local government bodies that represent 25,000 people living within the trust area, which includes 13 major islands and waters between the mainland and southern Vancouver Island. The local trust committees are responsible for preserving and protecting the area through planning and regulating land use, development management, education co-operation with other agencies and land conservation.

• • •

When contacted on Oct.23, Islands Trust chair Peter Luckham said he had not seen any formal complaints by residents sent to the trust about Law.

However, Black Press has received two emails that were sent to Islands Trust concerning Law’s behaviour – one sent on April 25, 2018 questioning misrepresentation as a “local trustee and provincial parks employee to add credibility” to a listing Law had on a couch surfing website, and another sent on Oct. 21, 2018 concerning the behaviour noted on the Facebook group. (Scroll to the end of this story for the full image of the letter).

The Islands Trust issued an emailed statement Oct.25 which read:

“The Islands Trust Council has a policy addressing standards of conduct for elected officials and expects that trustees will conduct themselves in accordance with that policy. The Islands Trust is not able to comment on any allegations that may be emerging regarding the personal conduct of trustees at this time.”

Other women who have spoken out within the community applaud Holliday’s decision to speak out publicly. Jane Talbot, who originally moved to Hornby Island in 1989, said because it is such a small community, people were afraid to speak against the status quo.

“…if you say something, you speak out, you could actually end up not even having any work. People might be upset … there’s a taboo on Hornby. You never speak out about certain things and you never call the authorities for anything.

“I just think it came to a crescendo.”

Island resident Helen Grond said police reports have been filed, and the Islands Trust has been contacted.

“Community elders have been contacted. People have attempted it over the years, to go through the proper channels. And no one has done anything.”

She noted there have been many calls for Law to step down from his position as trustee.

Comox Valley RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Tori Cliffe said privacy laws are in place to protect individuals, and could not release information to the public whether a file on an individual has been created.

• • •

Holliday said she has received a tremendous amount of support since her Oct. 21 post. Her motivation came directly from learning of the (Oct. 20) election results, as she became frustrated and angry and felt she had to take action.

“…You never know who is not on Facebook and what their opinions are, but the information has made it around the Island, and mostly everyone is praising me everywhere I go.“

Since everyone was agreeing with me and opening up and saying how they felt, it did make me feel empowered because I felt like I was really helping these people. And maybe nobody would have said anything if I didn’t.”

Holliday continues to be in contact with other women on the Island who have reached out to her since her post. She is calling on Law to step down from his position.

Islands Trust trustees will be officially sworn in at a ceremony on Nov. 6 in Victoria.



erin.haluschak@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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Tony Law’s reply post in the Word of Mouth - Hornby Island Talk group./Facebook

Wrena Holliday’s post to the Word of Mouth - Hornby Island Talk group./Facebook

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