This is our second Gender Focus panel post, where we get responses from different contributors on pressing issues and news. The events we’re looking at in this post revolve around the Vancouver Board of Education’s homophobia policy, and specifically the appearance in controversial videos for anti-same-sex marriage groups of two Vancouver School Trustees, Ken Denike and Sophia Woo.
According to the Georgia Straight:
The Vancouver School Board passed a motion Monday (January 16) to re-affirm its support for the district’s anti-homophobia policy, as it voted to censure two NPA trustees for their comments that surfaced in controversial videos last month[...]
Bacchus said the censure motion arose from what she called the “mis-representation” of the board’s anti-homophobia policy through comments made by NPA trustees Ken Denike and Sophia Woo.
The first video that surfaced last month featured Denike and Woo speaking about their concerns with an anti-bullying booklet for teachers published in 2006. The second video was filmed at a Christian Social Concern Fellowship gathering, and featured Denike and Woo speaking about possible changes to the school curriculum involving LGBT issues, and implying that Vancouver only has a general anti-discrimination policy, and not a specific anti-homophobia policy.
The part of the issue that bothered me most is that the footage was filmed before last November’s election (when Denike and Woo were re-elected) but it didn’t surface until after. This had people like me questioning whether they still would have been elected if it had. In nearly Burnaby the homophobic Parents’ Voice party was routed at the polls in the same election.
But others accept at least Denike’s insistence that he is not homophobic or opposed to anti-bullying measures. Xtra reports Denike told them “his intention was to ensure that parents get a choice in what their children are exposed to in schools. He noted that parents can remove their children from personal health classes as long as the curriculum aims are fulfilled elsewhere.” But the GF contributors weren’t as forgiving.
While I applaud the movement of the Vancouver School Board to publicly slap Ken Denike and Sophia Woo on the wrist, I agree with student Sarah Bercic: force them to resign. Firstly, isn’t it a conflict of interest for members of the NPA, whose mission is to improve Vancouver’s civic government, to be heavily involved with any religious organization in a professional capacity? And secondly, this pair prevented a link to the website Health Initiative for Men from being included in a reprint of an anti-bullying pamphlet for teachers. Apparently health information is too “sensitive” for teachers to look at. The leader of the Christian Social Concern Fellowship that Denike and Woo are members of has said that people shouldn’t be forced to learn about “special interests” (including anti-homophobia education in the school curriculum) and urges his audience to protect their children and grand-children. Protect them from knowledge, empathy and respect? Seems like another conflict of interest, preventing children from receiving education.
That school trustees are involved with any group that has a targeted homophobic agenda is outrageous; that these two are associated with a group that essentially encourages hate crimes demonstrates that they are not fit to act in the best interests of their students. Their behaviour is as intolerant as their belief system. Kick them out and keep them the heck away from the children.
I was really happy to read that the Vancouver school board is supporting their LGBT students and teachers. A couple minutes after reading that article, I read that another Catholic school board in Ontario was preventing a Gay Straight Alliance from forming. Jesus would not be down with that. Despite not actually being Catholic, I attended Catholic school from Kindergarten to grade 12. Those Catholic school board members who prevented a GSA from being formed need to re-read the New Testament. Maybe start with John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Or maybe Luke 6:36 “”You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” Preventing GSAs is about as far away from love and compassion that you can get.
Preventing GSAs is about as far away from love and compassion that you can get. GSAs prevent depression, bullying and suicide. For those who (erroneously) believe that homosexuality is a sin, continuing to allow an environment that’s harmful to gay students is far greater sin. So Kudos to Vancouver and shame on the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board. If anyone cares to join me, I’ll be sharing these thoughts with them.
If you want to take action on the situation in Vancouver, consider signing the related petition at Change.org. There’s also a Facebook event encouraging people to write letters to the Chair of the School Board and the two trustees.
About the author
Jarrah Hodge is the founder and editor of gender-focus.com. She has also written for the Huffington Post, Bitch Magazine Blogs, the Vancouver Observer and About-Face. Jarrah has B.A. in Women’s Studies and Sociology from UBC. She’s a fan of politics, Star Trek, musical theatre, and brunch.