RATTAN’S RUMBLE: Richmond Councillor Bill McNulty learns good lesson in multicultural etiquette

Bill McNulty RICHMOND Councillor Bill McNulty seemed to suffer from some deliberate memory loss as he painfully explained to me on Thursday that he didn’t mean to flash about his religion – Christianity – and by implication bash Buddhism at Wednesday’s heated meeting of Richmond Council’s planning committee (of which he’s the chair) that was looking at the expansion proposal by the Lingyen Mountain Temple.

The sparks started flying on Thursday morning when the Richmond News posted a story titled “Councillor: Buddhists didn’t act in a Christian way.”

The newspaper reported that McNulty said: “I’m a Christian and that’s not a Christian way of doing things.”

It added: ““When you go behind my back, I question your motives,” said McNulty, who then repeated several times that he is Christian and wanted it “on the record.””

The newspaper also pointed out that the renowned architect James Cheng, whose company has been dealing with the proposal process over the past decade, comes from a Christian background himself.

I was furious when I read that report and phoned McNulty, telling him that I was a Christian also. He appeared to be pretty shaken up, telling me he had spoken to a raft of Chinese and other media to “clarify” and “apologize.”

He seemed to be confused as to what to say as he told me “I may have used the word Christian” and then later: “As I say, I probably used … I did use the word Christian.”

So it was “I may have used,” “I probably used” and “I did use”!

MCNULTY explained to me: “I may have used the word Christian in the meeting – we were having a Council meeting on the Temple – and obviously there was tremendous heated debate, frustration, by all members of Council including myself and, anyhow, I brought up the idea that the Temple had gone to the Agricultural Land [Commission] decision, the decision on farming and the Temple’s backland without any City input, etc.

“I said this was a breach of the accepted process and I noted that I felt that this approach went against my own personal values which were based on my beliefs and that’s when he [the reporter] jumped on me. I probably said – and I don’t remember exactly what I said – I might have said [that] my beliefs are Christian.”

I asked McNulty: “So you didn’t repeatedly use the word Christian as the reporter alleges?”

McNulty replied: “I don’t recall. I believe I used it once at least, but I don’t recall … and I talked to others who were at the meeting, too. And then – you know I am proud of my beliefs – and what I did, just so you know, I have written a clarification-apology to the Lingyen Mountain Temple and to the newspaper – I have a letter to the editor going in – and I had an interview with the writer this morning.”

HE then read out his letter to the Richmond News and emailed a copy. The letter said:

“I am writing to clarify and apologize for remarks I made during the Planning Committee meeting on April 23 about the proposed expansion of the Lingyen Mountain Temple on No. 5 Road as reported in Richmond News.

“During the discussion, many Councillors, including myself, expressed frustration that the Agricultural Land Commission made a decision related to farming of the temple’s backlands without prior City input. This was a breach of accepted process. I noted that i felt this approach also went against my own personal values, which are based on my beliefs. While I am proud of my beliefs, I regret that my comments many have been inadvertently introduced religion into this debate. I apologize to anyone who may have been offended or felt my comments were intended to question or criticize the beliefs or actions of others who acted in good faith. I respect the religions of others and am proud that all cultures live harmoniously in Richmond. I am proud that we welcome and accept all cultures and religions in Richmond. That acceptance led to Council’s creation of the “Highway to Heaven” of which Lingyen Mountain Temple is a part. The area is a symbol of cultural and religious harmony for which all Richmond residents can be proud.

“Although I am a man of faith, religion has never biased my decision-making as a member of Council and it has not in this issue. In fact, I voted to refer the proposal back to staff so that the proponents, as requested, will have another opportunity to modify their proposal to attempt to address concerns raised by the City, Council and community. I urge anyone who would like to speak to me about this to please contact me directly through the Councillor’s Office at City Hall.”

MCNULTY then said: “I’ve spoken to James Cheng, the architect, he’s accepted my apologies. And I’ve spoken to others and they have accepted my apology. As a matter of fact, Mr. Cheng and I are meeting on Saturday to go over things.”

He added: “I am known to continually support and welcome all faiths and groups in Richmond and will continue to do so in the future and I am probably the most multicultural Councillor on [Council] and I … as I say, I probably used … I did use the word Christian and I regret doing so. I apologize for it. I’ve taken as much corrective action as I can and I can’t really do anymore. I dealt with it first thing this morning since I saw the article come out because he heads it here – which really bothered me – “Buddhist didn’t act in a Christian way” – well, I didn’t say that, but anyhow … the writer has to stick with what he wrote.”

Just for McNulty’s information, in such newspapers, the reporter does NOT provide the heading. It’s normally done by a sub-editor. (In my newspaper, I do give my own headings.) Also, it’s unfair on his part to say that “the writer has to stick with what he wrote” as though even IF the reporter screwed up, he wouldn’t admit it. Politicians love to deny stuff after they screw up!

Anyway, McNulty went on to tell me: “All I can do is react to it, which I have done. It [the apology] has been accepted by Mr. Cheng and others, which I am very grateful for. I continue to work with them. I go to the Lingyen Mountain Temple quite often, to be quite frank with you, and visit them and take part in their prayers and their songs and chants and etc., etc.”

He added: “I am not going to say it was blown out of proportion but as soon as you mention religion, everybody jumps up and down. No malice was ever intended, only cooperation was intended, and as I say, I think that the proponents understand. They saw the article too, they reacted accordingly too. Now that we have got together it’s like the brothers and sisters and friends and neighbours that we are in our community.”

Well, I hope McNulty has learned his lesson.

But I do want to address people who call themselves Christian (as I said earlier, I too am a Christian) and behave in a self-righteous manner. They should know that self-righteousness is condemned in the Bible. So is racism!

And by the way, Jesus was a BROWN man – NOT a white man. Do your research!