DEMOCRACY DENIED: VIHA board muzzles citizens’ voice

More than 100 citizens who turned out to the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s board meeting in Cumberland yesterday morning were denied any opportunity to voice their concerns about cutbacks and the privatization of health care services.

“Health care is at a crossroads, and yet, we were dismissed out of hand,” said senior Gwyn Frayne who chairs the Coalition to Save Social Services. “We left feeling there is absolutely no democracy in this process.”

Not only was the VIHA board unwilling to shift the meeting to a larger facility across the street to accommodate the crowd, but they refused to hear from anyone other than the four pre-approved individuals who were given 10 minutes each to present their concerns.

Frayne expressed her frustration with the board’s requirement that anyone wishing to address the meeting must pre-submit a one-page request form outlining the nature of their presentation and their viewpoint.

Although Frayne had followed the procedure, her request to speak about the importance of supporting the Romanow report had been turned down. Her only option now is to resubmit, but she is reluctant to do so.

“Clearly they don’t want to hear from anyone who differs with their corporate point of view,” she said.

Less that 24 hours before the VIHA board meeting, six people were arrested and charged with trespass by assault, when they occupied a Victoria building housing VIHA’s corporate offices.

The protesters were calling for a moratorium on health and social service cutbacks and privatization to allow for public discussion, and told authorities they would be willing to end their occupation if they were given a promise that even one public town hall meeting would be held.

Those arrested included a former director with the Capital Health Region, grad students, an anti-poverty activist and a grandmother.