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SOGI 123 protest in Burns Lake

We’re here to say that our children don’t need to know about sexual education; Colleen Simmons

The introduction of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity also known as SOGI 123 within children’s education has caused a stir with some local residents of Burns Lake. A number of people came out to protest and were seen at the RV parking space in Burns Lake along Highway 16 on Sept. 20.

“We’re here to say that our children don’t need to know about sexual education until they’re young adults and start thinking about family,” said protester Colleen Simmons.

“Kids have the right to grow up in a sex free environment where they can be happy, healthy and make their own decisions when they’re adults. That’s why we’re here. Not because we hate gay people, not because we hate transgender people. We just want our kids to be kids,” said Simmons.

Protesters demonstrated with their placards and there was a school bus with signs and slogans on it.

School District 91 issued a letter to their students, parents and the community of Burns Lake to address the current situation.

In the letter School Board Chair of District 91 Dave Christie said, “The Board of Education of Nechako Lakes School District is committed to providing safe, supportive, and inclusive schools and worksites for each member of our school communities. In our district we embrace, promote and honor diversity, as evidence within the goals of our strategic plan. The board and our staff remain committed to this plan to ensure student success and well-being. For all students to be successful, out schools must be places where learners experience a true sense of belonging and connection- there is no room for any form of discrimination or harassment in our school communities. The recent promotion of hate within the district is deeply disturbing and puts the safety and well-being of our students at risk. Our collective priority must be on the promotion of positive and respectful relationships with one another to ensure each learner can reach their full potential. Sexual orientation and gender identity are protected grounds under the B.C. Human Rights Code and each member of the LGBTQ2S+ community is a valuable part of our school. We will continue to celebrate your presence.”

Premier David Eby sent out a letter regarding the recent protest demonstration with his concerns about discrimination at schools to the President of B.C. Teacher’s Federation Clint Johnson on Sept. 19.

“The safety of all children must always come first,” said Eby. “I want to commend the province’s teachers, school staff and administrators, school trustees and district officials who continue to defend the use of resources ensuring all families are reflected in school materials.”

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim condemned the 1 Million March. In an emailed statement hours before the event he said “We are being confronted by ignorance and bigotry, and we must always call it out and stand with those who are impacted.”

“We can never allow ourselves to let hate win the day. So to all 2SLGBTQI+ individuals, know this, we see you and we value you. You are important and we stand with you.”

In a “mythbusting” document, the B.C. government notes that SOGI is not a dedicated curriculum. It’s meant to offer a set of resources such as in physical and health education it can include exploring and describing “factors that shape personal identities, including social and cultural factors,” which could include sexuality and sexual identity as a factor that shapes personal identity.”

SOGI is aimed at making school spaces more inclusive. The provincial government says classroom activities are designed to provide age-appropriate learning opportunities to help students understand the impacts of discrimination and improve awareness and understanding of the diverse people around them.

More information about SOGI and K-12 Anti-Racism Action is available on School District 91 Nechako Lakes website.