Saskatchewan

Contentious Pride vote lingers over Regina Public School election

Some Regina Public School Board trustee candidates say they’ve entered the race, running on a platform of inclusion, in response to the defeat of a Pride motion last fall.

Some candidates say they’re running on a platform of inclusion in response

The gallery at the Regina Public School Board meeting was packed on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. At the meeting, the school division's Board Chair Katherine Gagne apologized for how the board handled a motion around Pride celebrations at Regina public schools. (Emily Pasiuk/CBC)

Sarah Cummings Truszkowski thought about running as a Regina Public School Board trustee for years, but it wasn't until after a Pride motion was defeated last fall that she began getting serious about it.

The now-Subdivision 5 candidate was one of dozens of people who packed into the school board meeting that October 2019 evening, when a motion to allow schools to celebrate Pride as they see fit was defeated in a 4-3 vote.

"I left the meeting crying. Families were there, young children were there — it was a really devastating moment," Cummings Truszkowski said.

"It made me aware that there were trustees on the board who are not inclusive, who are possibly homophobic and who shouldn't be making policy decisions for the entire Regina Public School Board."

She's not alone. Similar thoughts are being expressed by many fellow trustee candidates, including John Lax and Tara Molson.

"Public school is meant to be inclusive of everyone — regardless of anyone's culture, whether you're a member of the LGBTQ2S community or your religion," said Molson, who's running in Subdivision 6.

Molson said she had many staff members and students approach her about not feeling safe in their schools and this ultimately pushed her into the race.

"Human rights are for everyone — full stop," Lax said. "Every single student in Regina Public Schools has to feel welcome and part of the community to foster better learning, and, frankly, a better society."

Sarah Cummings Truszkowski is running for Regina Public School Board trustee in Subdivision 5. (Sarah Cummings Truszkowski/Facebook)

Voters still divisive on LGBTQ inclusion, candidates say

Although more than a year has passed since that Pride motion was defeated, the issue is still fresh in many voters' minds.

Cummings Truszkowski said it's a hot conversation topic on her Subdivision 5 doorsteps, with people falling on both sides of the debate.

"It makes me aware that this kind of discrimination is still alive and well, and I'd like to do something about it," she said.

John Lax is running to be the Regina Public School Board trustee in Subdivision 2. (Bob Holtsman Photography)

For Lax, most discussions on the subject come in written form.

"I've gotten more emails about the Pride issue than on any other single issue," the Subdivision 2 candidate said. "It's 2020. I think we need to move past these things. And I think a good way to do that is through better public education, which is why many of us are running to be trustees in the first place."

Survey grades trustee candidates on inclusiveness 

Ahead of next Monday's election, Queen City For All (QCFA) — a group born out of last year's contentious Pride motion to support LGBTQ students — published results from a survey it circulated to public school board trustee candidates.

All 16 hopefuls were given letter grades based on their responses to questions about everything from Pride celebrations to conversation therapy.

Tara Molson is running for Regina Public School Board trustee in Subdivision 6. (Tara Molson/Facebook)

Kent Peterson — a spokesperson for QCFA who also backs Molson's campaign — said candidates' "records" were also considered.

"It's their record — not just in terms of if they were an incumbent trustee — but their record in community development in supporting Pride celebrations, perhaps in other roles they have, and being a strong ally," he explained.

Of those who answered the survey, 10 of them received either an A or B grade, which Peterson said means they "generally had really good answers about inclusion, diversity and making sure students are feeling safe and represented."

Only one candidate failed because they didn't participate.

Peterson said he's hopeful this survey acts as a reminder that more needs to be done in order for Regina public schools to be fully inclusive.

"LGBTQ young people face fear and discrimination in some way or another every single day of their lives," he said. "The absolute last place young people should feel that discrimination is from their own public school board."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessie Anton

Journalist

Jessie Anton is a Regina-based journalist with CBC Saskatchewan. She began sharing stories from across the province on television, radio and online in 2016, after getting her start in the rural weekly newspaper world. Email her at jessie.anton@cbc.ca.

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