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Vancouver Island school board trustee candidate distributing anti-SOGI material

A candidate for one of Courtenay’s two School District 71 trustee positions has been distributing anti-SOGI 123 material, printed by the organization Action4Canada.

A candidate for one of Courtenay’s two School District 71 trustee positions has been distributing anti-SOGI 123 material, printed by the organization Action4Canada.

The organization claims the SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) 123 initiative is not about anti-bullying, but rather part of a “global radical agenda” to sexualize children at the youngest possible age.

Anita Devries has been using Action4Canada material during her campaign, including a two-page pamphlet that attacks the SOGI 123 initiative.

The pamphlet suggests the SOGI 123 initiative “… is a Trojan horse, brought into schools under the guise of anti-bullying and to teach children to be ‘inclusive’ and support LGBTQ2+ students.”

It goes on to suggest that the resource is actually there “… to promote homosexuality and transgender ideology, and normalize sexual deviancy.”

When contacted, Devries denied using the pamphlets in her door-to-door canvassing, saying she only came across the pamphlets herself a couple of weeks ago and has been asking others what they know about this.

“I have handed out some, because I received some, from people, so I am asking others their opinion on it,” she said. “I have not come to anyone’s door with that pamphlet in my hand… I have only given it to people who are interested.

“I just heard about this stuff. I just received that pamphlet maybe a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t even developed my complete stance on this.”

She would not divulge where she got the pamphlets, only saying “someone gave it to me.”

Devries said she did approach some parents outside Lake Trail School.

“I was on the sidewalk outside the school talking to parents walking by. I think I handed them to maybe one or two people. I just want to know, what is true? Because if they are grooming our kids for sexual exploitation in our schools, I have a big problem with that, and I will be doing something about that.”

Craig Sorochan, communications manager for SD 71, said that while the school district is unable to comment on individual candidate positions, “Comox Valley Schools takes direction from the Ministry of Education and Child Care and follows BC’s Course Curriculum.”

He also directed Black Press to Policy 17 of the Comox Valley Schools Board Policy Handbook, which deals directly with the matter of SOGI 123, and trustees’ responsibilities toward the initiative.

The policy’s bullet points include:

• trustees, management and staff must model respect and affirmation of 2SLGBTQ+ individuals and families;

• trustees, management and staff must facilitate safer school environments for people of all gender identities and expression and sexual orientations.

• acknowledging that an acceptance of diversity is the starting point of respect;

• treating everyone with respect;

• using language that affirms all sexuality orientations and gender identities and expressions;

• not using disparaging remarks or language that demeans 2SLGBTQ+ identities and families.

Devries said while she hopes the information in the pamphlet is false, she will not remain silent if the information on the pamphlet is accurate.

“I totally agree with anti-bullying, I am completely against bullying of any kind. But I am also against grooming kids for sexual exploitation. So if that is happening in our schools, I will certainly try and change that.”

When asked about the SOGI 123 initiative and whether she aligned with the Action4Canada stance that the initiative is there “… to promote homosexuality and transgender ideology, and normalize sexual deviancy,” Devries said that is how she interprets it.

“I think that it seems to me, that it is promoting gender confusion.”

Devries was also asked if she believes anything other than heterosexuality is considered sexual deviancy, as is suggested by the Action4Canada pamphlet.

“I think that people do a lot of things that I personally do not agree with, and that is fine; I respect that. I respect all people. But what I would have a problem with is if I had a young kid, and a homosexual is telling my child that my child should consider becoming a homosexual.

“I think we can all agree that there is something wrong there - that we shouldn’t add confusion to children’s lives - that we should support them as who they are, and if they come out later on, once they have an understanding, you love them. It doesn’t matter who they become. You love them. That’s what parents and grandparents do. But you don’t, in kindergarten, ask them to question who they are, who they know themselves to be.”

(The Action4Canada pamphlet states sex education, including sodomy, is being taught to students as early as kindergarten.)

Black Press reached out to the other candidates running for the Courtenay school trustee positions, for their stance on SOGI 123.

“I am 100 per cent in support of the SOGI 123 initiative as it supports the equality rights and mental health of our students, particularly our LGBTQ+ youth,” said candidate Shannon Aldinger. “Sexual orientation and gender identity are protected against discrimination under our provincial Human Rights Code and through the equality rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms. Effective policies and procedures that explicitly reference SOGI also support student mental health as they reduce discrimination, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among students. Schools and districts are required to uphold these rights, to teach SOGI curriculum and to support student mental health, and school trustees should completely support and uphold these objectives as well.”

Incumbent Janis Caton also supplied a statement.

“As a trustee I have always felt it was and is important to create an inclusive, safe learning environment in our schools that respects and celebrates our differences in gender identities, sexual orientation and expression. I was a sitting trustee on the board of education when our district was one of the earliest in the province to develop a policy on SOGI that was passed unanimously at the board table, we also voted to support providing teachers the necessary resources and supports to help their students in the classroom.

“SOGI 123 is not a course or written curriculum, but it does identify three steps that school districts are required to do to ensure that all students feel welcomed and included in our schools. I fully support our district’s SOGI Policy 17 - Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and I firmly stand behind the joint statement from the Minister of Education and Child Care and all K-12 education partners’ on support for SOGI. All students deserve to be welcomed, included and respected in a safe learning environment and no student should be excluded because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

Candidate Jasmine Willard also responded.

“We know that children thrive when they feel safe and accepted. Not only does inclusive education enhance every child’s academic performance and holistic well-being, but it also affirms their human dignity. That’s enough of a reason to make it a priority for Courtenay. I fully support the SOGI 123 initiative as an essential resource in our growing toolbox to help us build a safe and inclusive culture for all students, regardless of their race, culture, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.”

A spokesperson for the ministry of education referred Black Press to the statement released by Minister of Education and Child Care, Jennifer Whiteside, on Sept. 16, 2022.

When asked if she would continue to distribute the flyers after being made aware of the misinformation on them, Devries was non-committal.

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