CHILLIWACK, B.C. – A British Columbia school trustee says an educational resource aimed at creating inclusive public schools by supporting LGBTQ students has become a “weapon of propaganda” and is “nothing short of child abuse.”
Chilliwack School District trustee Barry Neufeld made the comments in a recent Facebook post about provincial education policies on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues.
“The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity program instructs children that gender is not biologically determined, but is a social construct,” he wrote.
“At the risk of being labelled a bigoted homophobe, I have to say that I support traditional family values and I agree with the College of Pediatricians that allowing little children (to) choose to change gender is nothing short of child abuse.”
The American College of Pediatricians is a Florida-based organization that promotes heterosexual marriage, opposes abortion and is not associated with the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Neufeld wrote the sexual orientation and gender identity program was “instigated” by the former B.C. Liberal government to combat bullying but has become an initiative that infuses every subject from Kindergarten to Grade 12.
The elected trustee, who has served for two decades, said he believes the program encourages children to question their biological gender and consider gender transition.
“Throwing that out there for Grade 4 children to consider, to me, that is not wise and it infringes on the rights of parents to make these decisions,” Neufeld said in an interview on Tuesday.
He said the program would destroy the innocence of children.
The website for the initiative says it was created by educators and leaders from across Western Canada and “equips educators of all backgrounds and experiences with tools and resources for supporting marginalized LGBTQ students.”
The program already has provincewide participation in British Columbia and the website said a new partnership was recently reached with Alberta and national expansion is the next goal.
Neufeld said parts of the initiative are good and should be implemented but he wondered why it couldn’t be included in an after school program so interested students could join if they wished.
He also said it could create a new class of bullied youngster.
“These kids are going to be targeted. They are going to be the targets of bullies when they don’t immediately embrace this new philosophy that the provincial government is teaching.”
Education Minister Rob Fleming said it’s important to have the initiative in every school district and he said he hoped Neufeld would familiarize himself with its concept of respect for diversity.
“It’s part of our charter rights that every Canadian has, no matter what their age, and it’s something that the school system needs to teach at the earliest age so that students come out of high school understanding what it is to be Canadian, which is respecting each other’s differences and diversity,” Fleming said Monday in Victoria.
Chilliwack School Board chairman Paul McManus said Tuesday that Neufeld’s comments are his own opinions and don’t reflect the direction of the board.
“We, as a board, have to determine next steps on how we deal with it, because it’s a conversation we have to have,” McManus said, adding the discussion would likely take place in the next day or so.
Neufeld said he stands by his remarks and speaks for a silent majority of parents. Neufeld said he doubts he’ll seek re-election next year because he feels he doesn’t belong in an organization that promotes something he opposes.
“If this is what Canadian values are all about, I just don’t fit into it, anymore,” he said.