Spencer Chandra Herbert: Strong action needed to combat homophobia, transphobia, and all discrimination in schools

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      One of Canada’s greatest strengths is the deep roots of our diversity. Our society depends on people from many backgrounds and beliefs getting along and treating each other with respect. That is why it is so important that we as a society take strong action to eliminate homophobia, transphobia, and all other forms of discrimination.

      The uproar which erupted when the Burnaby school district began finalizing its anti-homophobia policy is evidence of why the policy is needed. The students there are asking for safe schools that support them being who they are. They aren’t asking for special treatment—they are asking for a level playing field where a person won’t get targeted with violence for being gay, lesbian, bi, or trans. The fact that this is even an issue in this day and age shows how important it is for strong education in our schools in support of diversity.

      Given the kind of bullying, harassment, and intimidation these students face, it isn’t surprising that almost two-thirds of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students say they feel unsafe at school, and the suicide rate amongst LGBT youth remains so high. That’s why the work the Burnaby school district is doing is so important, and why it should be commended for taking steps to ensure its students are protected from homophobic and transphobic bullying, not criticized.

      Bullying isn’t only taking place in Burnaby—it’s happening all across our province. Right now there are only 12 school districts that have specific policies in place to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students. That is not acceptable. It shouldn’t matter which community a young person lives in—they have a right to feel safe at school. Unfortunately the B.C. Liberal government has refused to take action on this for the last 10 years despite the overwhelming evidence that our kids need help.

      The Ontario government brought in a provincewide policy which all school districts must implement to protect students from hate, and to educate students about their province’s great diversity. It’s well past time for our province to do the same, and to take a leadership role and show gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students that their happiness and safety is a top priority.

      Our schools need to be places where young people are taught to respect diversity, not places where people are beat up or victimized because of a difference in culture, race, sex, ability, or sexual orientation. Discrimination is not okay anywhere in B.C., and our schools should reflect that.

      Diversity is the greatest strength of this country and this province. As leaders, let’s embrace it and make sure everyone feels welcome here.

      Spencer Chandra Herbert is the NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End.




      Jun 14, 2011 at 9:14pm

      And let's not forget where the bullying attitudes really start: at home. Parents need education/training to raise their children without hate. The parents of any student found bullying should be visited by a social worker.

      Mike Puttonen

      Jun 14, 2011 at 11:36pm

      Burnaby passed their policy, so, to Mr. Herbert and all the other decent and sensible public figures and private citizens who supported it... This Canadian thanks you.


      Jun 15, 2011 at 12:22am

      Stuartm, totally agree that bullying attitudes start at home but I add to that that a social worker should also visit a home where there is an indication that the student or child is being mentally and emotionally abused by the parents because they think or know their child is gay. I know of too many kids that suffer in their own homes due to homophobic parents.


      Jun 15, 2011 at 1:14pm

      Here's a video of the anti-gay parents at a Burnaby School Board meeting, accusing the school of having a secret gay indoctrination agenda.

      If the BCHRT is willing to go after comedians for hate speech, why not these people? Hmmm....


      glen p robbins

      Jun 15, 2011 at 1:54pm

      Although this isn't a general bullying policy - it is a policy relating to a specific type of bullying - how about fat people, beautiful people - geek people, people with bad acne and others - who are bullied and who are not suffering gay or transgender people?


      Jun 15, 2011 at 3:42pm

      The difference, Mr. Robbins, is there is no teacher in the province who would dare go on the radio and say that "people with bad acne are counter to god's plan and we should teach our children that something is wrong with anyone who has bad acne." -

      Look - this is a comment played on CKNW this morning

      SO AND SO is a Burnaby teacher and was hoping Policy-545 would not be passed.

      He says he supports kids being safe but believes the policy is trying to change the thinking that homosexuality is contrary to gods' design.

      An opinion he says that needs to be respected.

      TEACHER: And, I think, those kind of, that thinking from teacher and kids is being stamped out cause a lot of kids would have that belief too but they're wondering now, this is wrong for me to believe that. And, so, I think that policy can, in the long run, try to stamp out that sort of thinking.

      Have you ever heard a teacher on the radio saying it is too bad the school board stops kids from bullying fat people because parents and thier children should have the right to hate them?


      Jun 15, 2011 at 5:53pm

      My favorite sign in the Youtube video mentioned above is near the end of the clip at 1:20 "Respect Parents Rights". I'm sorry but this is Canada. When did a child's sexual orientation ever have anything to do with parent's rights?? Every child has the right to be who they choose to be. Parents need to sit back and listen, instead of inflicting their homophobia onto their children and others. It is totally find to have your own beliefs, but do not force those choices onto others around you. I am not a religious person, but that doesn't give me or any other person the right to put down any other person's religion. Same goes for sexuality. Get on with your own life and stop trying to control others.


      Jun 15, 2011 at 6:33pm

      Good fo Spencer to speak up about this, shame that we don't hear the same from his own Burnaby NDP colleagues Raj Chouhan and Kathy Corrigan...

      glen p robbins

      Jun 16, 2011 at 12:26pm

      No Exekeil that isn't the difference. God has nothing to do with public policy. I have encountered teenage kids attending Burnaby schools (through family) who actively wear anti-bullying shirts provided to them by their schools.

      I recently contacted parents of a 15 year old girl in Coquitlam - attractive, high scholastic achieving, good athlete - nice family - and she was being aggressively intimidated by 7 young women. It was very disturbing. 2 of the women were allegedly in a lesbian relationship. This young woman did not want to tell her parents for fear of reprisal.

      After I telephoned, the parents went to the Principal of the school and the problem was dealt with.

      Bullying is bullying and should not be defined in abstract specificity. Neither religous parents nor parents or supporters of gay or transgender children have the right to policy domain with respect to determining and countering fear and intimidation of any child in our public schools no matter the circumstance.

      This is public policy designed for political purposes and Mr. Herbert is the marketing symbol to attract Liberals from Christy Clark - who has one eye on Conservatives and who has taken advantage of pink shirt day (anti bullying). More competent leaders would recognize and understand how important it is to realize that bullying is bullying and it can happen in any manner of circumstances and should not be more identified to one type of bullying when in and of itself it is generally wrong and should thus be generally decried.

      God has nothing to do with it. Common sense does.


      Jun 16, 2011 at 4:48pm

      So Glen you think Spencer is just pretending to be against homophobic bullying? That's ridiculous.

      Go read Egale Canada's study and then come back and tell people that school districts shouldn't take concrete and specific action to prevent homophobic behavior in schools:


      Yes, of course, all schools should fight all bullying. That's true, but districts already have specific policies addressing forms of bullying such as racism and sexism which also need to be fought in our schools.

      In a school system where 1/10 gay kids says they regularly hear their teachers make homophobic comments, and 50 per cent hear "that's so gay" every other day, school districts should be making strong policies that target a group which has been targetted by ORGANIZED hate.

      Where is the "Parents who think wearing glasses is immoral" group protesting about schools teaching that Einstein wore glasses? Why is it a big deal to acknowledge that Oscar Wilde was gay, and jailed for being gay, and that is essentially what ended his career and soon after, his life?

      The difference there is why school districts need to have proactive policies in place to ensure every kid and every family feels welcome in our public education system - of course, unless the only way they are willing to feel welcome is if their children can tell gay kids can be told they are going to hell without expecting to be sent to the principal's office for it.