BC United Leader Kevin Falcon says the concerns of parents marching in an upcoming rally to oppose sexual orientation and gender identity teachings in schools shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.
Falcon responded to a question about the Hands off our Kids march, which is planned to take place Wednesday in communities across Canada, at a news conference Tuesday in Vancouver.
“When it comes to a point where parents are feeling a need to protest in the streets, that's telling you something — it's telling you that they feel excluded and ignored in what's going on in the schools,” Falcon said.
“I think it's important that we don't just dismiss that outright, that we recognize that there are legitimate concerns that are driving some of these concerns among parents.”
Falcon said the government has a responsibility to make sure there’s transparency about what goes on in the classroom.
“Making sure that parents have a line of sight into what's going on in the schools is absolutely reasonable,” he said, adding parents should be given notice when sex education classes are planned, and have ability to withdraw their child if necessary.
"Whenever we can, involving parents is always a better response in challenges with schools,” he said.
That's already the case in B.C. According to Kamloops-Thompson school district Supt. Rhonda Nixon, a parent's right to opt out or withdraw their kids from certain classes or teachings is well established in existing legislation.
“That is rooted in the B.C. Schools Act, so it’s actually a legislative requirement, and our procedures just enable us to take the steps to make that a reality," Nixon said.
“School districts take their guidance legislatively from the Ministry of Education, and that requirement of offering alternative delivery of sexual health education is in the ministry’s mandate, so every school district would have to have a procedure or process to be able to make that a reality.”
Many protesters planning to march Wednesday are doing so in opposition to SOGI guidelines, which encourage inclusion on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.
A flyer promoting the Hands off our Kids march in Kamloops says participants will demand an end to the SOGI curriculum, as well as events like drag story times.
In several cities, counter protests are planned, with participants speaking out in support of the LGTBQ+ community, and the importance of ensuring safe spaces for trans, two-spirit and non-binary youth.