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Two-way street

Dear editor:

Borderland Pride wishes to congratulate David Kircher, Raymond Roy, and Kathryn Pierroz on their election to the Rainy River District School Board.

Each of these candidates earned our endorsement after responding affirmatively to our recent questionnaire, administered by Dawson Mihichuk, about their support for modern, inclusive, and fact-based health and sex-ed curriculum.

We surveyed public school board candidates because this content and the teachers who use it are under threat by the provincial government. We are confident that Mr. Kircher, Mr. Roy, and Ms. Pierroz will work to uphold the board's record of allyship for LGBTQ2-identifying youth and their families, and its leadership on inclusion in education.

Indeed, these are crucial topics for school boards in light of the Ford government's decision to rollback the province's sex-ed curriculum by more than 20 years. The 1998 curriculum they have resurrected is silent on key issues such as sexual orientation and gender identity (having been written years before same-sex marriage was legal).

It makes no mention of critically-important concepts such as consent or the risks of online/mobile communications, social media, and the internet, in an age when mobile phones and personal computers are in the hands of youths across the province.

This puts kids at risk and is harmful to their healthy development.

It also is out of step with the express protections of the Education Act, the Human Rights Code, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Put simply: the government is sending the message that families like mine, and many others, do not exist.

Their actions lead to the conclusion that they believe and intend to convey that there is something wrong, abnormal, or subversive about LGBTQ2 students and parents—something from which other students must be protected or shielded. That is, on its face, discriminatory and hurtful.

While we applaud some incoming and returning trustees, we are disappointed that the convictions of others remain a mystery. David Loewen and John Fuhrer did not respond to our questionnaire, despite follow-ups by e-mail and telephone.

This naturally raises questions about the place they see for LGBTQ2 kids and their families in the education system, and the content of their platform and views of those who supported it. Our survey administrator inferred animus or indifference toward LGBTQ2 youth, at a time when education leaders need to stand up and protect them.

Contrary to the letter from Sherri King in last week's Times, these were reasonable conclusions in light of their silence and the current discourse on these issues in education. It is entirely appropriate to expect candidates for public office to answer questions about the statute-defined parameters of the job they are seeking.

There is no need to break bread with those who might prefer LGBTQ2 families be erased from the classroom, or want to keep their heads down while it happens. “Mutual respect” is a two-way street.

The fact is that school boards and their trustees have explicit legal obligations to LGBTQ2 students' equality and protection from discrimination. Those duties come before personal views. If any candidate could not thoughtfully answer these questions, they should not have put their name on the ballot.

Now that they are elected, we hope those trustees who did not respond will rise to the occasion.

Borderland Pride continues to be a watchdog for diversity, inclusion, and youth well-being in our region, and we are committed to holding public officials and institutions to account.

We will continue to stand up for LGBTQ2 youth and their families in the education system through all means at our disposal.

Sincerely,

Douglas W. Judson

Borderland Pride

Fort Frances, Ont.

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