You may not realize it, but this is the first column I have written to be posted on Abbotsford Today in nearly a year. I am inspired to write this column for many reasons, but last night I was privileged to hear Don Campbell speak at the AbbotsfordFIRST event at Tanglebank Gardens.
Don spoke about how Abbotsford stacks up, as an attractive investment opportunity, against our neighbours both here in BC, and across the country. He is an expert in this area and his review of Abbotsford was honest and frank … we are falling behind.
He admonished us, as a community, for thinking like a village when we have been a city, with big city problems and challenges, for a long time. But then Don went deeper into why we are stuck in this way of thinking.
His opinion can be summed up in one word – Bullying.
He described how a few bullies in town are making decisions for the rest of us. This statement of fact was met with resounding agreement from the people in attendance.
It also got me thinking.
I want to tell you all something that is not easy to relive. Like many others, I was the victim of bullying.
As an immigrant from England in the early 70’s, my family moved around for many years before we settled in Abbotsford. From Kindergarten to Grade 12 I changed schools about every year and a half. Not only did I make few friends, but I was always the new kid in class.
It started in a small town in the Kootenays that was largely populated by Aboriginals and French Canadians. My class included a boy named Pierro, who had failed 3 times so he was of Grade 7 age while I was in the Grade 3 half of a split class. His almost daily physical torment of me culminated when he stabbed me in the face with a pencil.
I seek no sympathy here.
I tell you this because it was the beginning of years of playground fights. Always being the new kid, I was an easy target, and my brother, who was small for his age until sprouting up in his late teens, needed my protection in these times, and so he had to watch me go through these trials.
So here I am today. Pierro is 35 years in my rear view mirror and I now seek to evaluate his legacy in my life.
Abbotsford Today is in existence because Mike Archer and I felt that the citizens of Abbotsford were being bullied, and lied to, by their own government. Our motivation for starting this site was to give you a platform on which you could learn the truth and fight back.
We joined in the fight. When the bullies in town said something condescending about honest and valid criticism, we hit back hard. Some of you think that we hit back too hard.
There is actually a fine line between fighting back and becoming a bully yourself. When you’ve been persecuted for long enough, it feels like nothing is ever “too hard”, but that is not true.
Here at Abbotsford Today, we have crossed that line on occasion, and we want to apologize.
We want to engage in a debate over issues. When those we wish to debate won’t answer for their actions, we have attacked them personally. Our intention has been to protect you and punish the bully.
We won’t do that anymore.
The methods we have used to govern ourselves have to change. The people who have controlled the agenda in Abbotsford, largely from behind the scenes, for so long, need to go.
We are no longer afraid of them.
We’ve stood up to the bullies, and with any luck, they will soon be exiting the stage. It is now time for us to begin a more civil and productive exchange of ideas.
Are we going soft? No. Nobody gets off the hook for the positions they take or the mistakes they make, but that’s where we’ll draw the line.
I’ve been bullied ever since the day I stood up to fight Plan A. It continues today…nasty emails, people telling me to leave town, attacks on social and regular media, and just simply calling me names at every opportunity. Mike and I receive hate mail all the time, we’re called every name under the sun and constantly marginalized by the power structure of Abbotsford despite the fact that 20,000 of you visit this web site every month.
We don’t care about those things at all. We made our choice to speak up with this web site and we knew what we were getting into. So why now?
The truth is that we never wanted to become what we’ve fought against for the last 6 years and what I’ve fought my whole life. We never wanted to be the bully.
So, last night Don Campbell told us what we need to do to be a successful city. Stop the bullying.
AbbotsfordFIRST claims the tagline of “Leadership. Accountability. Respect.” which translates into a desire to lead the way in this regard. As a part of that political team, I have one thing in my control through which I can lead by example. That example is to insure that Abbotsford Today fulfills its mandate of being your voice and your resource, not your hammer.
Mike and I want you to hold us accountable for this statement. We also want to apologize to anyone that has felt personally attacked on this web site. Our intention was to promote open discourse on the issues. We both heard what Don had to say and it would be hypocritical to not evaluate our own actions.
You should also follow Don’s advice.
There is only one way to end the bullying. It’s time to stop being scared. It’s time to stand up and fight back, and you can do that by exercising your right to vote on November 15th.
Abbotsford Today thanks you for your support and we hope you’ll keep reading, and contributing to the other side of the news.
Vince Dimanno & Mike Archer
The Today Media Group