British Columbia

Ex-Autism B.C. board member Laurie Guerra says there was no such thing as an 'anti-SOGI secret meeting'

Guerra says she felt she had to resign from Autism B.C. after a "so-called" news story sparked an ugly backlash against an organization she cares about.

'The invitation that I had was called 'Freedom and Faith,' and that's all that it was'

Laurie Guerra says she felt compelled to resign as an Autism B.C. director after a news story about her attracted 'horrendous' criticism of the organization she dedicated more than a decade to. (CBC News)

Laurie Guerra says she felt she had to resign from Autism B.C. after a "so-called" news story sparked a backlash against an organization she dedicated 13 years to.

Guerra, a newly elected Surrey councillor, resigned her position as director of Autism B.C. after she was criticized for her attendance at a private party organized by alleged anti-SOGI groups.

A news outlet reported Guerra and a fellow Surrey councillor attended a "secret" victory party, organized by groups opposing SOGI 123, a provincial program which provides resources to help prevent bullying in school based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Asked why she stepped down from her Autism B.C. position, Guerra was unapologetic.

"Just all of the backlash that had happened on social from the news story, the so-called news story, that was out about me," she said. 

"The whole thing was premised on a falsehood. There was no such thing as an anti-SOGI secret meeting. No such thing at all."

'Freedom and Faith'

Guerra says it was a ticketed private celebration to honour people who ran as school trustees or as city councillor.

"The invitation that I had was called 'Freedom and Faith,' and that's all that it was," she said.

Guerra said after she was named as one of the participants at the dinner event, it stirred too much angry controversy toward Autism B.C.— which had no connection to the issue.

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

"The organization was just bombarded by hate phone calls and Twitter comments. Just horrendous stuff to an organization that means the world to me," she said.

Guerra confirms that she is not in favour of the SOGI 123 resource and makes no apologies for that. She said that she does not believe the program is evidence-based, She also said she does not think the program has enough parental involvement.

"The last thing I want is for anybody to be bullied. Anybody, anywhere," she said. "I just don't think that children need to be asked who are they physically attracted to at a young age like that," she said.

Guerra was the focus of a petition demanding her removal from the Autism B.C. board of directors after she was named as having attended the Surrey event.

Since resigning, Guerra says she's had an outpouring of support from people in Surrey, lauding her for standing up for what she believes. She says she hopes her ordeal encourages people to stop "shutting people down because they have a difference of opinion."

Autism B.C. director Laurie Guerra was elected to Surrey city council last month. (Safe Surrey Coalition)

With files from Justin Mcelroy