When faced with a question in the legislature from Spencer Chandra Herbert (Vancouver-West End) asking the premier to commit to ensuring every school district in the province has comprehensive policies to fight homophobia and transphobia, Premier Christy Clark dodged the question and tried to claim she has been strong on the issue, when that simply isn't the case.
New Democrats have been calling for the Liberals to follow the lead of Ontario and bring in a province-wide anti-bullying policy which specifically addresses homophobia and transphobia. B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth agrees that school district policies that specifically deal with sexual orientation and gender identity are an important component of helping gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth feel safe in their schools.
Here is an overview of the B.C. Liberal record on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered rights.
Record of the Premier
Promised to make addressing homophobic bullying a “top priority” during her leadership race, and then released an education platform that had no mention of fighting homophobia or transphobia. A follow-up promise to release the policy on Pink Shirt Day also was broken.
“On Jan 8, Christy Clark promised the gay community that homophobic bullying would be among her top priorities if she were to become premier. But homophobia is not mentioned in Clark's new education policy released on Feb 14. Clark spokesperson Shane Mills told Xtra on Feb 15 that Clark did not want to bury her bullying policy in the general education document. He said it would be released in conjunction with Pink Shirt Day on Feb 21 or 22.” (Jeremy Hainsworth, Xtra West, Feb. 15, 2011)
Claimed that protecting LGBT students was a local issue: “Local school boards can make their own rules about these things.”(Christy Clark, Global TV, June 15, 2011)
Didn't support the Burnaby School Board's policy banning homophobia and transphobia:The premier didn't stand up for the board's progressive policy, missing a key opportunity to take a strong public stance in favour of protecting LGBT students.
Failed to address homophobia through Safe Schools Task Force: In 2003,then Education Minister Christy Clark convened a “Safe Schools Task Force” – their report acknowledged that concerns about homophobia figured prominently in submissions and that attempts to raise the issue of homophobia in schools often met with resistance. Yet despite the acknowledgement of a culture of homophobia in the school system, the report offered no recommendations aimed at addressing these serious concerns.
“Even though the report infers a connection between bullying based on sexual orientation and suicide and murder, it offers no standard anti-homophobic harassment guidelines in its recommendations. Homophobia does not even rate a mention.” (Jeremy Hainsworth, Xtra West, Sept. 4, 2003)
The Liberal record
Education minister wrong on protections for LGBT students:Education Minister George Abbot claimed that all 60 school districts have policies protecting LGBT students from homophobic bullying (Global TV, Nov. 2, 2011). Meanwhile the Representative for Children and Youth says only 15 school districts have strong policies in place protect LGBT students. (CBC, Nov. 21, 2011)
Cut funding for YouthQuest: In 2002 the Liberals cut the funding for YouthQuest, one of the only LGBT organizations that served youth in rural communities. The funding cut destabilized the organization and it eventually dissolved.
“The B.C. government cancelled its grants to YouthQuest last March then offered two brief reprieves before cutting the funding altogether.”(Xtra, March 6, 2003)
“Youthquest has been providing drop-in centres, a toll-free number and outreach services to rural youth throughout B.C. since its inception in 1993. But the society began to falter in 2002, after the provincial government cut its funding.”(Diane Claveau , Xtra, March 15, 2007)
Liberal MLA Mary Polak (Langley)was instrumental as a Surrey School Board trustee in banning gay-positive books from Surrey Schools: The book ban was later struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada which said“instead of proceeding on the basis of respect for all types of families, the Board proceeded on an exclusionary philosophy, acting on the concern of certain parents about the morality of same-sex relationships, without considering the interest of same-sex parented families and the children who belong to them in receiving equal recognition and respect in the school system.” (Chamberlain v. Surrey School District No. 36)
“Polak, who represents Langley, is probably best known for her actions as a previous trustee of the Surrey School Board, when she moved a motion to ban from the school system three books depicting same-sex parents in a positive light.” (Russ Francis, The Straight, Nov. 17, 2005)
At the same time as Polak was on her crusade to ban LGBT books, a survey showed that 30 percent of Surrey students in grade 8-12 identified homophobia as a serious safety issue in school. (David Beers, Tyee, Sept.10, 2004)
Liberal MLA Marc Dalton (Mission) compared homosexuality to gambling, abortionand pornography: Then he made a two-minute statement praising a religious organization which believes homosexuality can be “cured.”
“A B.C. Liberal MLA who once compared homosexuality to gambling, pornography and abortion used time in the legislature Oct 18 to promote a church whose leader believes homosexuality can be cured.”(Jeremy Hainsworth, Xtra West, Oct. 21, 2011)