While protests against the province's sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) initiative in B.C. schools continue on, the B.C. government and education partners have affirmed their continued support for it.
On September 26, 180 pastors and 1,000 signatories sent the West Coast Christian Accord to B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming to request that all SOGI resources be withdrawn from schools.
However, in a joint statement with numerous education organizations issued on September 29, Fleming reiterated the provincial government's support for SOGI.
The statement was issued in partnership with the B.C. Teachers' Federation, the B.C. School Trustees Association, the First Nations Steering Committee, the First Nations Schools Association, Métis Nation B.C., CUPE BC, the Federation of Independent School Associations, and many more.
The statement emphasized inclusiveness.
“All of B.C.’s provincial education partners for K-12 schools are committed to ensuring every school—both public and independent—is a place where students feel safe, accepted, respected and welcome regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or background."
The statement pointed out that the B.C. Human Rights Code had been amended in 2016 to protect gender identity and expression. Consequently, all 60 of B.C.'s school districts have now completed updating their codes of conduct to prevent bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Students have the complete support of teachers, administrators, support staff, trustees and parents as we create learning environments where all students are free of discrimination so they can thrive and live authentic lives,” the statement went on to say.
The statement was released as activists, both for and against SOGI, demonstrated at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria on September 29. The Canadian Christian Lobby and the Canadian Council for Faith and Family supported the protest but counterprotesters also attended to demonstrate their support for SOGI.
The event was organized by Christian transgender male Jenn Smith from Abbotsford, who has struggled against his own gender issues throughout his life and is against SOGI. It was also cohosted by Burnaby school board candidate and Christian blogger Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson.
Smith and Thompson had previously participated in a SOGI protest in April in Victoria that also faced counterprotests.
Meanwhile, a pro-SOGI rally had been held in Coquitlam on September 15.