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What do the Prince George school trustee candidates think about SOGI?

Candidates running in the SD57 by-election were asked to provide their opinion on SOGI

SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) resources in schools is a topic that has drawn attention recently in School District No. 57 (SD57), and other districts around the province.

The Prince George Citizen asked each of the 10 candidates running for two seats in the June 17 SD57 by-election to answer the question: “what is your stance on SOGI and why?”

Their responses are provided below in full.

Bill Price

I would like to answer this question in two parts.

A)  SOGI is provincially mandated by the BC Ministry of Education. It is one element of diversity that is to be embedded into all grade curriculums. It is designed so that ALL students are represented in the course material they interact with. As such, my opinion on it is irrelevant and I would have to put my opinions aside if they interfere with my job as a trustee. Luckily, this is not a case where that is necessary. 

 B) As this is a hot topic at this time, I would like to lay out that from a personal perspective, EVERY child must find the school setting a safe and inclusive place to be. To paraphrase Ivan Coyote, “Everyone needs a safe place to pee.” As a side note, my wife is a teacher librarian in SD57 and was in the role of District SOGI Lead for three years. During this time, I always supported her; especially the time and emotional commitment required to support SOGI for students, and district employees. SOGI needs to be a part of every curriculum, so all students, staff and families are represented. 

So in short, I support SOGI in all curriculum. 

Sarah Holland

I support SOGI policies, support following the BC Human Rights Code, and support ensuring equality, respect, and acceptance for all people, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Having safe, inclusive, and caring schools is important to me.

As of 2016, all BC public and independent schools are required by the province to include specific references to sexual orientation and gender identity in their anti-bullying policies. Additionally, the BC curriculum includes a focus on valuing diversity and respecting differences, which helps prepare all students to participate in a diverse and inclusive society. Understanding and respecting differences is a crucial part of becoming a responsible and empathetic citizen.

I'm horrified when I see an increase in anti-LGBTQ legislation and policies, such as what’s been happening in places like Florida. I'm horrified when I see this try to happen in my own province and community. 

I am baffled that some people are attempting to use this as a wedge issue for school trustee elections, as this is not something that school trustees have any real control over in British Columbia.

Don Fitzpatrick

When we talk of inclusion this means everyone. In order for inclusion to work in our school systems, it has to include students, teachers and resources like SOGI 123. SOGI 123, is a valuable resource for students where they feel, safe included, inspired, and can have an open dialogue with teachers, or peers alike. We must advocate for students and advocate for more resources for those students who feel excluded or are afraid to come to school.

In speaking with students who access the SOGI 123 resources I am told this provides them with confidence, self-esteem and gives a sense of belonging and acceptance. This is a powerful resource for our students. In order for inclusion to work this must include EVERYONE.

David Low

Those that are for SOGI need to realize that there is no need to defend it.  We have it and are doing it. Those that oppose SOGI need to express their concerns directly with a trustee.

Lucy Duncan

Like I said before SOGI has been around in the last decade and it has always be the topic in any public form. It needs to be reviewed how it is being presented in the school. Parents and religious organizations are concerned but on other hand people need to be safe that attend school... no matter what religion, what gender, and what ethnic background people are from. Our policy should reflect inclusiveness, trust, honesty, equity and cultural safety and humility.  

Dusty Martin

Every person has a sexual orientation and gender they identify with, regardless of who they are and where they live. Being a neurodivergent queer woman, I express myself outwardly in a different way than someone who may not be apart of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. It is important to ensure inclusivity and respect is granted to everyone, in every aspect of life. This is a complex issue for children that takes years of maturing to grasp. By accurately informing the adults in our community about the importance of overall good sexual health - which SOGI is a piece of - this ensures a respectful and gradual teaching of these issues to our children. However, there are areas within our society, including the school district, that need more attention when it comes to respect and inclusivity. Our indigenous communities currently do not receive this kind of support and we are failing them because of this. We must take this time to collaborate with these communities to understand their needs, and adjust how we lend our aid. Indigenous knowledge has a broad understanding regarding issues such as SOGI, and our communities would benefit greatly from their teachings. 

Shar McCrory

I fully support SOGI and SOGI policy in SD57. SOGI policy has been adopted by all 60 school districts in BC. In 2017, a BC Government Factsheet found that over 25 per cent of BC students identified as queer, and this number has surely risen in the last 6 years. Schools are a place of learning, and students must feel safe and have the ability to express themselves without fear. It is our responsibility to ensure schools are environments where students are welcomed, included and respected. Schools are places for students to feel a sense of belonging and free from discrimination. We need to champion an inclusive culture, for everyone, beyond classrooms, beyond schools, into our communities and beyond!

Milton Mahoney

I believe one’s sexual orientation and gender identity is solely a personal matter, but I will defend their rights. I would follow the Government mandate to ensure a safe working and learning environment for all district staff and students. 

By the time of publication, we have not received responses from candidates Heather McKenzie, or Josh Silva. The story will be updated when further responses are received.