British Columbia

Petition demands Autism B.C. revoke directorship of anti-SOGI board member

"Autism B.C., whose motto and vision is inclusive society, should not have a person in power promoting discrimination against a minority group," says petition sponsor Mirella Russell.

'Autism B.C. ... should not have a person in power promoting discrimination,' says petition sponsor

Laurie Guerra is a director of Autism B.C. and a newly elected Surrey city councillor. (Safe Surrey Coalition)

A mother of an autistic child has started a petition asking that Autism B.C. revoke the directorship of Laurie Guerra over her participation in an anti-SOGI 123 gathering last week. 

Mirella Russell says she can't understand how Guerra can advocate for inclusivity of people on the autism spectrum in schools, while speaking out against the same for those in the LGBT community.

"I felt that Autism B.C., whose motto and vision is inclusive society, should not have a person in power promoting discrimination against a minority group," she said. 

"When I saw the article regarding Laurie Guerra and her position in regards to SOGI, I was deeply offended." 

Russell is referring to a News 1130 story that reported Guerra had attended and spoken at a private party for anti-SOGI 123 campaigners held Nov. 6, two weeks after she was elected to Surrey city council.

SOGI 123 is a resource for B.C. teachers and school administrators aimed at addressing discrimination and bullying around sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Opposing SOGI 123 groups assemble in front of the B.C. Teachers' Federation Office in April, 2018. (CBC)

According to the Autism B.C. website, Guerra has been an active board director for more than 13 years.

The group BCEdAccess, which advocates for fair and equitable access to education, has written an open letter to the Autism B.C.board of directors over Guerra's position, saying they first raised concerns about her anti-SOGI beliefs in July. 

"As the issue is now a public one, we are asking that you make an immediate public statement regarding Ms. Guerra's position at Autism B.C., and most importantly, what position Autism BC as an organization takes on this issue,": reads the letter.

"Sexual orientation and gender identity are not personal choices nor a political position. They are protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act."

Guerra has not responded to interview requests made by CBC News.

In a statement, Autism B.C. president Gary Robins wrote, "the views and opinions made by directors and staff of Autism B.C. do not necessarily reflect the views of Autism B.C."

Russell's petition had almost 1,000 signatures as of 4 p.m. PT Monday.

"I want to make clear this is not a fight against Autism B.C.," she said. "This is a fight against Laurie Guerra, who we believe is not representative of our views and this organization."