Opinion: Board of Education is no place for intolerance

Intolerance not welcomed

In 1990, when I was first elected as a Central Okanagan School District 23 trustee, this district’s sexual education curriculum erroneously questioned the efficacy of condoms in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, stubbornly advised teens that the only acceptable behaviour was abstinence prior to marriage and spoke of equality and inclusion but taught the negatives of a LGBTQ lifestyle “choice.”

Realizing that much of the information being conveyed to students about acceptance and inclusion, as well as on the topics of sex and sexual orientation, was discriminatory, inaccurate, incomplete and outdated, I took on the challenge to move this district’s policy and curriculum in these areas out of the 19th century and at least into the 20th century.

While many of the proposed changes were adopted during my 12-years on the board, it was not until some years after I retired that the discriminatory language regarding LGBTQ persons was finally removed from the SD23 policy book.

A few years ago, the adoption and implementation of sexual orientation and gender identification (SOGI) programs and resources moved SD23 fully into the 21st century. Hopefully, the only question in the next century will be “Why did it take them so long?”

However, in a Sept. 28, 2022 news release, a right-wing political lobby/activist group, Action4Canada weighed in with a vitriolic and scurrilous tirade against SD23’s equality/inclusion program and sexual education curriculum.

It asserts the SOGI program used by SD23 is like “sexual grooming” of children by pedophiles and compares some support material to pornography. Action4Canada made these outrageous accusations against SD23 despite the fact the program and curriculum are approved by the Ministry of Education and Child Care.

Action4Canada further alleges the crime of child abuse is being committed and the district superintendent is lying about the situation. The most bizarre part of all this is its overall insinuation that some kind of conspiracy is at work here, a conspiracy organized, according to the Action4Canada website, by unnamed “radical LGBTQ activists” to corrupt students.

Reading its news release and perusing the Action4Canada’s website, which has language that must be described as anti-LGBTQ, anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant, it is clear this group has an underlying intolerance of certain groups of people.

Clearly, the Action4Canada news release came out during the election campaign of school trustees in order to bolster support for the four SD23 trustee candidates endorsed under the banner of ParentsVoiceBC (whose information and promotional video are posted on the Action4Canada webpage).

Unless those endorsed candidates renounce these unsubstantiated, divisive and scurrilous accusations made by Action4Canada and reject its endorsement, voters should reject the ParentsVoiceBC slate of candidates.

We need school trustees who are not only caring and tolerant of diversity, but also think clearly and make decisions based on facts and solid research, not on wild speculation and conspiracy theories.

Terry Robertson is former a Central Okanagan School District trustee. He served on the school board from 1990 to 2002.

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