British Columbia

Most anti-SOGI school trustee candidates fail to pick up seats

"We're pleased that, overall, communities around the province rejected these candidates," says Glen Hansman, president of the B.C. Teachers Federation.

BCTF president says campaigns against sexual orientation policy were 'sad'

Anti- and pro-SOGI protesters faced off in front of the B.C. Legislature in September. (CHEK )

School board candidates who campaigned against a sexual orientation and gender identity policy in schools failed to pick up significant seats across B.C. in Saturday's municipal elections.

The B.C. Teachers Federation says it isn't surprised — but it is relieved.

"I mean, it's a bit sad that we would have candidates that were running on a platform against initiatives to make schools safer for gay and lesbian and trans youth," said BCTF president Glen Hansman.

"So, it's gratifying to see that these candidates were soundly rejected by voters in Richmond and Burnaby and Campbell River and some of the other communities where they were running."

Gender rights

The policy, called SOGI, is aimed at reducing discrimination.

Key components of the policy include using respectful language, giving students the right to self-identify using their choice of preferred pronoun, and allowing students to use washrooms and change rooms that match their gender identity.

The school policy was introduced after the Human Rights Code was amended to include gender rights in 2016.

Melanie Mcmanus, 8, rallied in support of SOGI in April 2018. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

But it has met with fierce opposition in some school districts, with some people calling it indoctrination.

In the lead-up to the Oct. 20 elections, anti-SOGI candidates were listed in municipalities across the province.

Still, few such candidate trustees were elected on Saturday.

Chilliwack candidates re-elected

One who was re-elected was controversial school trustee Barry Neufeld, whose resignation has been sought by both the Chilliwack school board and at least one parents' group.

The BCTF has filed a human rights complaint against Neufeld, which will be proceeding this fall, according to Hansman.

"Hate and bigotry have no place on school boards," said Hansman.

Chilliwack, where the school board is comprised of five trustees, a chair and vice-chair, saw another two anti-SOGI candidates elected: Darrell Furgason and Heather Maahs.

In Richmond, Richard Lee was elected — but leading anti-SOGI crusader Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson failed in her bid to make Burnaby's school board.

No power over policy

Trustees have little power to change the policy — that is the responsibility of the province, which also has the power to fire school board trustees.

Trustees do have some measure of control over what learning resources to use, but not about the essence of what is taught.

Hansman says the failure of most anti-SOGI candidates to get elected is part of a trend.

"The voices who are speaking in opposition to it are an increasingly dwindling fringe group," he said.

"They do make a lot of noise in the lead-up to election periods, for sure, but all 60 school districts in this province are moving forward on this."

With files from Maryse Zeidler and Roshini Nair

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