Glen Hansman strives to improve school for LGBT folks, Indigenous students, and others

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      In the lead-up to the Vancouver Pride parade (which takes place on August 5), we’ve compiled profiles of LGBT community members that, together, offer just a brief view of how multiple identities overlap, interplay, and interact to make up each individual’s totality. To see more of our Pride 2018 coverage, click here.

      Glen Hansman didn’t want other students to experience what he went through. That’s why he became a teacher.

      “I had a really awful time at school myself as a queer youth in northern Ontario,” Hansman can now recall with a chuckle. “High school was not a really great place for me.”

      Hansman, 45, is currently in his third term as president of the 43,000-strong B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF).

      In an interview at BCTF headquarters in Vancouver, Hansman went on to relate that he was active in LGBTQ politics as a university student.

      “I landed on education because I wanted to make sure that school systems did better, not just for youth like me but for any student, Indigenous and others, [who found] that the school system was not a great place,” Hansman told the Georgia Straight.

      Armed with degrees in English literature from Carleton University and education from McGill University, he travelled west and secured a teaching job.

      The new educator got involved right away with the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association (VESTA) as a union representative. He eventually became VESTA’s president.

      In addition to teaching, he was also hired as a consultant on antihomophobia and diversity issues by the Vancouver School Board (VSB).

      With Hansman as adviser and then school trustee Jane Bouey taking a leadership role, the VSB came up with a groundbreaking antihomophobia policy. “That policy that Vancouver adopted in 2002 became sort of the guiding document for what a lot of other school districts eventually adopted,” he said.

      It was also in that same year that the B.C. Liberal government stripped teachers of their bargaining rights to negotiate classroom conditions, triggering a lengthy court battle. Ultimately, in November 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a landmark ruling that restored those rights. Hansman at that time was president of the BCTF.

      Hansman also recalled during the interview that his old high school had a sizable population of Anishinaabe students who faced discrimination. This shaped his dedication to contributing to the cause of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

      “It was very clear to me as a teenager that they were marginalized, and there was a lot of racist bullshit that went on at our school at the time, from administration on down,” he said. “And so my commitment to ‘Indigenizing’ schools has sort of been intertwined with LGBTQ work.”

      According to Hansman, he and the BCTF are keen on working with the B.C. government on one of the recommendations by the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which pertains to antiracism training for public servants and the rights of Indigenous peoples.

      Hansman said he doesn’t know how much has changed in his old school. But it struck a personal chord when he heard that the government of new Ontario premier Doug Ford had scrapped the province’s sex-education curriculum, one that was LGBTQ-inclusive and dealt with matters like consent and online safety.

      Hansman said: “It made me sort of think back to what it was like for me in high school in Ontario in the late ’80s and the early ’90s, kind of going, ‘Hmm, that probably isn’t the kind of education that students should be getting.’ ”