View Royal mayor explains ‘rape culture’ comments

Specific call to action lost in wording, says Mayor Screech

David Screech felt compelled to further explain himself this week, after his comments about “rape culture” drew the ire of fellow delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention last week in Vancouver.

The View Royal mayor told the Gazette that his comments, part of a discussion on a motion calling for the UBCM to support the creation of an intergovernmental task force to identify how to erase the rape culture in schools, universities, workplaces and elsewhere in Canada, “were taken a bit out of context” and that he is “anything but insensitive to the issue.”

“I prefaced that at the beginning,” he said of his comments, adding it was the wording of the motion that gave him pause, not the content. “I said I supported and was sympathetic and empathetic to the motion.”

Screech was quoted as contesting the claim that the problem is “pervasive” and therefore rampant.

“I don’t believe that’s true,” he said at the meeting.

Cariboo Regional District director Margo Warner, one of the sponsors of the proposal, had previously told delegates she was raped 43 years ago, but didn’t report it because of the culture of the day.

After Screech’s comments, more women stepped forward to reveal themselves as sexual assault victims, while other men and women told the Island politician he was wrong.

After overwhelmingly approving the first motion, delegates also voted to ask the task force to look at ways of improving reporting, arrest and conviction rates across the country.

Screech said he voted in favour of the original motion, but admitted he did have difficulty with the notion that we live in a rape culture.

“Maybe what I should have been focusing on is the culture in schools and universities; I can understand that, rather than society as a whole,” he said.

Last Friday the mayor re-posted to his own Facebook page a lengthy explanation of his position that he had written on someone else’s page.

“What I had (and still have) difficulty with was the wording of the ‘Therefore be it resolved’ clause,” he wrote. “I do not believe that these clauses should contain emotional ‘hot button’ words. They are supposed to be a clear and concise call for action …

“Is rape a serious issue in our society? Yes, absolutely. Do I support the concept of a task force? Yes, absolutely. Do I believe we live in a ‘rape culture’ where rape is extensive, rampant, universal, and pervasive? No, I am sorry but I don’t.”

That post prompted a number of responses, many of which pointed to figures and research on the topic of the pervasiveness of rape and sexualization of women, primarily, in society.

Screech admitted that in retrospect he would have contributed differently to the sensitive discussion.

At the same time, the UBCM convention veteran said if the body wants its recommendations to be taken seriously by the provincial government, it needs to craft more specific policy suggestions.

“In general it would be fair to say at UBCM, rather than having well thought-out policy decisions that go from the municipalities to the (province), we endorse motions sometimes in a rather hurried way before they’ve been refined or amended.”