Audio from 2020 Communist Party of Canada meeting showcases systematic disciplinary failures
Since writing my resignation from the Communist Party of Canada, the unnamed person I mentioned in my piece reached out, saying she had read my apology, and that she appreciated it. The person was María Tenayuca, a B.C former head organizer of the Nanaimo club of the Young Communist League, an independent organization heavily tied to the Communist Party of Canada. She then sent me audio of a meeting that a club member named Vivian had with Kimball Cariou, head of the B.C Communists and Rozhin Emadi to discuss misconduct of Club member James Chumsa, who acts as a public representation for the Communist Party of Canada. His TikTok account, Comrade.Chumsa, has 9,000 followers at time of writing.
This meeting was to go over misconduct that James had done while being a prominent member of the community and the CPC. The interview, while not a smoking gun, shows an instance of how the current climate of the CPC came to be. The concerns raised by Vivian in this audio are numerous and serious including allegations of James getting going on dates and getting his date drunk while he stays sober, outing a trans person directly against her wishes, and leaving drunk or high women alone with no one to help them. The way this is treated by the higher-ups is telling, as they eventually shift the conversation to “damaging” claims about a predator in the YCL, rumours that Kimball and Rozhin brought up independently, which Vivian had not heard.
I’ve attached some audio pieces below, as well as transcriptions of key parts that show how the CPC handles serious situations. The full audio and certain clips are left out to give privacy to people in the meeting who raised personal information that isn’t relevant to the discussion.
Thank you to María for bringing this to me, and by trying to warn me and other comrades since this happened to her. Before the audio is explained and transcribed, María would like to begin.
Preface from María Tenayuca:
I want to preface this by saying that at the time that this meeting was recorded, I had already been expelled from the YCL without the right to appeal and my partner had left shortly before that because she was entirely disillusioned by the process and the foot-dragging. Before that though, Tyson Strandlund, head of the CPC in Victoria, had contacted Vivian to ask if she would be able to take over for me, claiming that I was “hostile”, “hormonal” “emotional” and “changing from day to day” (transphobic rhetoric that I heard multiple times throughout this process) even though I was being consistent in the need to concretely discipline James.
At one point in a Facebook chat with Rozhin and Tyson I asked them flat out directly if they were going to discipline or expel James; they continued to be incredibly wishy-washy and condescending and would not give me a firm answer. They expected us to keep organizing and attending meetings with James, even though he was supposed to be suspended while he was investigated. I told them that this was unacceptable as he made many people deeply uncomfortable and that, as a club, we would do everything in our power to remove James and that we would warn local people and groups against organizing with him, due to his dangerous and predatory behavior. We were told we had to keep “party unity” in mind.
Imagine that- unity with an unsavory creep!
At this point came the now all-too-familiar strains of “factionalism” and “uncomradely (sic) behavior” were hurled at us as well as a all sort of smears and baseless ideological reasonings. They attacked the fact that our group was heavily involved in mutual aid in the local community, telling us it was against the priorities of the organization to be engaged in such work. Anyways, shortly after this recording Vivian submitted her resignation to the CPC/YCL. Seeing as my partner and I were gone as well, the club completely dissolved here.
I would like to point out that although my partner was the first to come forward with concerns, the party never properly interviewed or questioned them about it. At this juncture we didn’t pursue it any further for months as we had our hands full with our mutual aid work and starting a community garden. However at this time it began to eat away at me that these people were doing this and that it was likely that others might be hurt by their actions, so I started speaking out about what had happened (and what was likely still happening) on Facebook and to any activist that would listen.
It was around this time that Scott first reached out to me (he was one of the first I talked to). It was at this point that many party members and leaders began to attack me and said many inappropriate and rude comments dismissing the victims of sexual assault, some of whom have changed their tune after the Jay Watts incident. In fact, Jay Watts not only saw this, but he engaged in this rhetoric too. No doubt he took note of how easy it was to get away with these kinds of indiscretions and how party loyalists could be counted on to back up abusers and dog-pile victims. I’m certain it was at this point he realized how he could be protected. The further that we pushed the more vitriolic they became.
We not only faced the typical misogyny, homophobia and the like, but it escalated to threats, intimidation and outright harassment. Tyson himself came up to our town and took photos of a park near our house, posting them on their CPC/YCL pages. There was a thinly veiled excuse- but I asked why was it necessary for him to come up here at all when there is still a CPC club here and many closer, more suitable locations not by where I lived? In addition to all this, they made innumerable scurrilous and fraudulent claims about us, claims for which I still have yet to see one iota of evidence. They put out a public statement with our names and implied they had reported us to police and ElectionsBC(?), who have never attempted to contact us regarding anything. However, despite how awful all this was, the more we talked, the more other women and gender oppressed people shared their testimony with us of how they’d been abused by this organization, and we learned more about the repugnancy and rot that festered it. We also uncovered some of the details of the Johan Boyden scandal (though at the time we didn’t know his name) all this led us to the conclusion that we had to keep going, no matter what.
Now everything has blown up out into the open and I don’t really know what to say in closing, except thank you to everyone that has had the courage to come forward, as it would have been an impossible task without them to give me strength and lighten the burden in my heart.
Kimball Cariou states that while they’ve “never stood for this kind of thing,” he says there are not a lot of expulsions in the party because people in the party tend to be a “better human being than average.”
“Of cases where we have had to deal with conduct that’s deserving of expulsion, this would be the most common. Abuse of women.”
“If any of us heard about such a thing, we are morally, legally, constitutionally obligated as communists to take action on it, and we do. It would be criminal for us NOT to take action.”
“I certainly couldn’t sleep at night if I knew there was a sexual predator in the executive of the YCL and I wasn’t doing anything about it.”
Kimball Cariou was specifically cited in Saleh Waziruddin’s extensive document in trying to hold Johan Boyden’s sexual misconduct to account, as calling Saleh “chickenshit.”
Part 2- In four separate clips, accusations against the club member are discussed, not investigated or acknowledged past Vivian’s comments (this was after María was expelled, later the club would dissolve and reform with James in it, as far as we know there isn’t evidence the new members of this club were made aware of James’ misconduct)
Part 2: Details of James Chumsa’s inappropriate conduct are brought up to Kimball and Rozhin.
Vivian discusses the YouTube video “Adventures with Aly” where James filmed a woman being groped and forcibly kissed by another, unnamed person.
K: “So is he doing this in the video or filming it?
V: “No, no. Someone else is doing it and he filmed it… and… he didn’t intervene… and he felt this was acceptable to have online as a public video for a long time. It’s unlisted now but it’s still there on the playlists.”
K: “So we wouldn’t be able to see it if we went to his YouTube channel at this point?”
V: “Uhhhh you would. You would. I can send the link.”
It is important to note I have heard the woman in the video has declared she and James have resolved the situation between the two of them. However, the question of the appropriateness of making this video publicly available is the main focus of this exchange.
V: “I’ve been organizing with James, we’ve been comrades since the middle of 2018. Shortly after we got ratified, and so- that was the YCL club again ratified. So I’ve been spending a lot of time around James and… He goes partying often at the clubs and I’ve tagged along a couple times…”
K: “So what kind of irresponsible behaviour?”
V: “It’s usually… been around women being either drunk or on drugs and him thinking its safe to leave them alone… He just has not put effort towards making sure they are safe. I’ve had to point that out often, so I am quite worried about what happens when I am not there.”
K: “Okay… it’s a long time since I’ve spent any time at clubs… if I could just get a better handle on this… these are clubs where, presumably, there’s a lot of drinking, drug-taking, that kind of thing. What level of responsibility do people have for one another in such settings?”
V: “Well in terms of that, I think it matters a lot because, talking to a lot of people in the community, a lot of people have been noticing this sort of stuff since James is very well-known. He’s known in all the clubs and he’s known by a lot of activists and… and that’s really the main issue here is that um, is that I’ve been told by various activists and women in our community about these sorts of things beyond what I’ve seen. So I think it’s more relevant to say that the community tends to take it pretty seriously, and I personally take it pretty seriously and it’s been really harmful for trying to get new members and winning support for the party and the YCL.”
Clip 3: Vivian and other people’s repeated attempts to hold James to account for discussing sexual things inappropriately with people, and him failing to reflect on their critiques.
V: “He tends to talk a lot about sex and a lot of his own sexual experiences around people who otherwise wouldn’t want to hear it. I’ve had to ask him to stop quite a few times with that sort of discussion and, I mean… a lot of the things I’ve heard personally have mainly been from the University and from what I’ve been told by people in the students union and people in other clubs. Since we had a lot of interest for a long time with the YCL, but we were told that they weren’t comfortable around him. So we’ve been trying to get him to reflect on that stuff because for a long time we thought it was a reflection issue, and so we spent months and months and months constantly talking about it, give him the tools necessary and he never stopped and continued those types of behaviour…”
V: “This is before he got his current partner, before that he has been known for dating around a lot, which is not an issue in itself, but what I have noticed with that happening is… that when he was going on dates… they would often get drunk and James tends to be the designated driver. So there have been a few times where they are making out and stuff… while the person wasn’t sober.”
K: “Taking advantage.”
V: “Yeah I mean… yeah.”
Clip 4- Vivian talks about James outing María Tenayuca’s gender identity against her wishes:
V: “When Maria was still in the YCL, and it was in a group chat on Facebook I believe, and he outed her without her consent and I was there. We had not previously agreed to talk about it just yet with other people.”
K: “And James was aware that that had been the agreement? And he outed her anyway, is this what you’re saying?”
Part 4- Kimball and Rozhin bring up allegations of a sexual predator in the CEC, of which Vivian has no knowledge, then Rozhin ties this member’s conduct into a wider smear campaign
Rozhin: “One, we’re hearing that, y’know, that there’s a person in the YCL that’s a sexual predator. There are rumours that said person is in the Central Executive Committee of our YCL. So that’s clearly not true, and this is, I didn’t hear this from one activist, I heard it from several from the island at this point within days of us beginning our investigation. So what you’re describing right now, so a lack of- uh inaction to helping women who are intoxicated or inaction when it comes to other people maybe taking advantage of women, is very different than being a sexual predator yourself in which you’re participating in groping…”
K: “…who is a sexual predator, uh rumours which, as far as we can gather do not come with any name attached. We know who the Central Executive of the YCL are. It certainly doesn’t include James.”
V: “Okay, I haven’t heard many rumours beyond- beyond James, so…”
K: “So you haven’t heard any rumours of this particular nature?”
V: “Not yet… not of other people no.”
K: “Not yet?”
Clip 3- Rozhin attempts to tie the claims against James into a wider smear campaign against the YCL, when Vivian has already stated she had not heard of anything like that mentioned to her.
R: “…on the island who have said that these two individuals have contacted them about a sexual predator being in our leadership of the CEC. So this isn’t something separate, this is uh- it’s very clear that they’re trying to frame this as a situation in which we don’t care there’s a sexual predator, that we’re trying to hide this fact, which is untrue. The person who is accused is suspended from membership and banned from going to YCL meetings as well as an investigation, because we need to know. We need to hear from the-said individual, we need to hear from more than one person because these are serious accusations. We can’t take any sort of action without hearing what’s going on, and as I said, through these we’re hearing new and new stuff. So that’s why it’s important for us to really investigate it, it’s not because we don’t care. It’s because we need to know exactly what the situation is, so we can proceed with going forward. So I guess the point here is, if that’s not how it’s being framed to people right now, and there’s, in my personal opinion, a malicious intent behind this, because you’re purposely suggesting this person is in our CEC and that we’re hiding this fact, that they’re still a member. It’s quite obvious what the result of that’s going to be, what’s that going to look like on the YCL? …. So it’s quite the contrary actually to what’s being spread, and I don’t think that’s just, and I don’t think that’s doing justice to people that are actually survivors of these forms of violence. I believe that it’s taking advantage of a situation for personal gains and there’s no transparency here. In fact, it harms our investigation, because when we’re hearing such complete twists of what’s going on, it makes us question ‘well how much was accurate to begin with’ because of what’s already being twisted so maliciously already, you know what I mean? So if there’s an actual concern with women’s safety, with gender oppressed people’s safety, then we need to make sure that we take care of that without all this messy business that’s taking the attention away from an actual person that could be of danger to our organization. With the intent of framing the YCL as an organization of predators. I hope you understand where my concerns are coming from here, because my number one concern is to make sure that we have a safe space and that means that no form of hostility should be acceptable in our space. I just want you to know that you’re saying what you have about James so far, these are serious, it’s important facts that you’re sharing with us, and again to reiterate: a thank you to you for being open and I know it’s difficult to be open about somebody that you’ve known for a long time. I really do want to thank you for that.”
The CPC of B.C has partially addressed these claims by releasing a statement in December 2020 which, among other claims, called out María specifically for making “openly racist and sexist comments against Francophone and Indigenous members of the Communist Party and the YCL, as well as racist accusations against Black revolutionary movements in the United States.” The details of this claim are not cited any further. It’s important to note that, while this is not copy and pasted language, there are elements that mirror similar statements made by CPC officials in the wake of the Jay Watts crisis. “Sabotage,” “anti-communist hate campaign,” and similar accusations. While I don’t have evidence to contradict some of the claims made in the letter, María claims the only evidence they gave of her racism were her criticisms of the U.S Black Panther Party which I’ve attached at the end of this article.
The discussion that took place here with Vivian, Kimball, and Rozhin exemplifies an attitude that is endemic to the Communist Party of Canada. As far as I can tell, James Chumsa is still a member of the B.C CPC. Were these concerns of him being sexually inappropriate and outing an LGBTQ+ Community Member communicated to club membership? What trust is there that the CPC could handle this situation appropriately with the latest crisis and Saleh Waziruddin’s detailed accounting of Johan Boyden preying on people while the CEC knew? They and attempted to destroy Saleh for accounting this? In this very interview, Kimball is on record as saying that this type of complaint is the most common, and that expulsions rarely occur, citing that Communists are a “better human than average.”
Once again I would like to thank María for reaching out and talking through this with me, and I hope this exchange further illuminates the rot at the core of the CPC.