British Columbia

Protesters for and against school SOGI policy rally at B.C. Legislature

The B.C. Ministry of Education issued a written statement in support of SOGI earlier in the day, saying the education policy protects LGBT students against discrimination.

Education policy protects LGBT students against discrimination says government

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

Hundreds of people for and against the province's Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity policy in schools rallied in front of the B.C. Legislature on Saturday. 

The Canadian Christian Lobby organized the rally in opposition to SOGI, but people in support of the policy soon organized a counter-protest.

SOGI is a Ministry of Education policy that outlines how educators and school administrators can address topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity in more inclusive ways.

"I believe it is a social engineering program of our government that is not based on truth or science," said parent Courtney Strom, holding up a sign that said "Stop sexualizing children."

The policy's goal is to reduce discrimination and suicidal ideation.

According to the province, 19 per cent of B.C. high school students identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or not exclusively heterosexual. In 2016, gay and bisexual youth were seven times more likely to attempt suicide.

Key components of the policy include using respectful language (like not using the expression "That's so gay"), giving students the right to self-identify using their choice of preferred pronoun like he/she her/his, and allowing students to use washrooms and change rooms that match their gender identity.

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

'It's about creating safe spaces'

The policy has met with fierce opposition in some school districts, from some opponents who call SOGI "indoctrination." 

Victoria West Elementary teacher Patt Carrico, who attended the rally in support of SOGI, said she saw and heard a lot of misinformation from protesters. Carrico said the policy has nothing to do with sexualizing students. 

"It's about creating safe spaces," she said. "[That's] huge for a student who is undergoing a time of questioning or recognizing a difference in their lives."

The B.C. Ministry of Education, in collaboration with education-related groups like the B.C. School Trustees Association and the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, issued a written statement in support of SOGI earlier in the day. 

"There is no room for any type of discrimination in our schools," the statement said. 

"Every school — both public and independent — is a place where students feel safe, accepted, respected and welcome regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or background." 

With files from CHEK News