The president of the Cariboo Chilcotin Teachers’ Association (CCTA) is denouncing the rise of homophobia and transphobia across Canada.
CCTA president Jessica Hill said the CCTA is proud to reaffirm its commitment to protecting schools as safe and inclusive spaces throughout School District 27.
“We stand in unwavering support of our LGTBQ2S+ members, students, and families,” she noted in an email to the Williams Lake Tribune.
“The alarming rise of homophobia and transphobia across Canada has no place in our communities, least of all our schools. Misguided campaigns that would force trans kids to out themselves are dangerous, threatening their mental health and even their lives.”
Recent campaigns circulating across the country include the 1 Million March 4 Children, which took place on Sept. 20. The campaign states on its website that they are not anti-LGTBQ2S+, but that it opposes the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) resources within schools. This was confirmed by a group of 30 or so individuals who participated in the protest in Williams Lake.
Hill noted SOGI-inclusive resources are about ensuring that all students and their families are reflected in school materials. They also protect students and staff against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, in accordance with the BC Human Rights Code—provincial law.
In August, Saskatchewan Education Minister Dustin Duncan announced a policy requiring school divisions and the Conseil des écoles fransaskoises (CÉF) to seek parental consent for a student’s preferred first name and pronouns.
The policy states:
“Given the sensitivity of gender identity disclosure, when a student requests that their preferred name, gender identity, and/or gender expression be used, parental/guardian consent will be required for students under the age of 16.”
Students wishing to use a different first name or pronouns must fill out a form called Authority For Use of Preferred Name or Pronoun(s) with their parents and submit it to the school. The form is then stored with the division’s records management procedures and the Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Consent is not needed for students 16 and over.
The policy seeks to ensure students feel “included, protected and respected,” and if a student needs support in gaining parental consent, a “support team” will be provided to them.
This follows a similar policy in New Brunswick.
One Cariboo parent (who chose not to disclose their name to protect the identity of their LGTBQ2S+ child), said these types of policies are challenging and should be carefully facilitated conversations, not confrontational acts.
“But then the child doesn’t have their own freedom and autonomy to be who they want to be,” the parent said, who noted schools are places of learning and parents should figure out ways to have open communication with their children.
“Mean the words you say when you say, ‘I love you no matter what.’ You might not always agree, but you love them no matter what.”
Hill added CCTA values diversity in schools and sees it as a strength.
“We believe that every member of our school community, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, deserves a respectful environment in which to learn, grow, and flourish.
“We are committed to defending schools as safe and inclusive spaces for everyone. To our LGBTQ2S+ members, students, and families—we see you, we value you, and we will always stand up for your rights.”
SOGI 123 (sogieducation.org) is an excellent resource for those looking to learn more about LGTBQ2S+ inclusion.
For those in Williams Lake looking for a safe space in light of recent events, the Williams Lake Pride Society will be offering one on Sept. 20 at the Central Cariboo Arts and Culture Society from 5:30-7:30 p.m. In a statement they released on Facebook, they said, “We choose to promote a safe space. We support our teachers, our health care professionals, and all others who work so hard to provide an environment of equity for those who express gender diversity.”