4 min

Burnaby opponents to run for school board

Parents' Voice in early stages of forming a party

Credit: Jeremy Hainsworth photo

Members of a parents’ group that unsuccessfully fought the passage of Burnaby’s gay-friendly school policy are forming a political party to contest civic elections this fall.

Parents’ Voice member Charter Lau says the party’s formation is “still in the very initial stages — just writing ideas on napkins, I think.”

There’s no agreement about what to call the party that will field only candidates for school board, he adds. But there’s still some work to be done to attract people to fill the slate.

“Honestly, it’s very hard to get seven people, but we will try,” says Lau, who is still uncertain if he will run for the prospective party himself.

Parents’ Voice staged several late-spring rallies to oppose the passage of the Burnaby School Board’s 5.45 anti-homophobia policy. The school board passed the policy on June 14.

Gordon World, an outspoken member of Parents’ Voice, is the only one who has committed to running for trustee, Lau reveals.

“I won’t say anything about the party itself,” World says, but confirms he will run for school board trustee in the fall.

It’s “a little early to go into much detail about parties right now,” he adds.

World says there “definitely will be a platform,” the details of which will be unveiled very soon. Anti-bullying will be one of the platform’s aspects, he notes.

At the height of the controversy over 5.45, World suggested during a presentation to the school board that he would vie for one of the trustee’s jobs during fall civic elections.

“November, as many of us know, is election time. The chances of some of you being reelected is in jeopardy because of this [policy],” World told the Burnaby school trustees. “If there isn’t somebody who steps up to the plate, I myself will take one of your jobs.”

World says the focus right now is on distributing a brochure on “the real meaning of 5.45.” He says there have been a number of cases of non-gay bullying that he’s concerned about. “5.45 was intended as quote unquote an anti-bullying policy, and it certainly hasn’t panned out that way,” he maintains.

Asked if he plans to push for the removal of 5.45 should he become a trustee, World says he would have to “explore the policies and procedures to facilitate that, but it would certainly be a consideration, yes.” He says the policy is something that “we don’t need and favour.”

Lau says he wouldn’t be interested in pulling 5.45 but can’t speak for others.

“I don’t think it’s a good gesture to show the gay community that you scrap 5.45 — and then you say that you accept them? I don’t think so,” Lau told Xtra on July 19.

Lau says that if he were to run for trustee and win, he would “try to make everybody happy.”

“My idea is very simple: print [the policy] out, send it to the home of every parent, have them comment, get their response back. If the clear majority — 70 percent, 60 percent — say that it is a good policy as is, I will say, ‘Okay, let’s go for it,’” Lau says. “This is a very democratic way to do it.”

If at the end of that process, the result is not one he favours, Lau says, “then maybe I can tell the parents that this is the majority and you have to respect the will of the majority. If you don’t like it, suck it up.”

Burnaby activist Kaitlin Burnett views the development of a political party by anti-5.45 opponents with concern.

“Basically what this is, is a political party that’s being founded on the principles of homophobia and transphobia. It’s a political party that was founded because of an opposition to equal rights for the GLBT community, so I’m very concerned.”

World says nothing could be further from the truth. “We respect people who are gay, we respect people who are lesbian, we respect people who have whatever lifestyle that they fall into. 5.45 favours people who are gay, lesbian, queer, whatever.”

Lau says Burnett’s view is “absolutely wrong.” He says he’s more concerned with the way the school board “deals with things, not too much about the homosexual part of it.” He says he agrees with the anti-bullying aspects but maintains he still doesn’t like some of the wording, particularly the definition of heterosexism, which was slightly revised before the policy was unanimously passed last month.

“My concern is a balance between different rights,” he continues. “A balance between gay rights, parents’ rights and students’ rights.”

But Parents’ Voice pamphlets distributed during the rallies outside the Burnaby School Board office label anti-homophobia, heterosexism, transphobia and sexual orientation as “fluid, ill-defined buzzwords,” part of a political agenda that “thrives on gullibility and emotion to achieve its goals.”

Asked how he would convince people that homophobia is not at work in statements like these, Lau says he cannot, even though he has tried.

Moreover, he adds, there is “no one, unified belief” among those contributing to the Parents Voice “movement.”

World says he doesn’t buy in to the “buzzwords” that are being created by social media and organizations like PFLAG and Egale Canada. “These are not real words. Transphobia does not exist in the Webster’s dictionary, period,” he says.

Lau, who has a gay sibling, says he understands the gay community “does have some very legitimate reasons” for wanting policy 5.45 but notes that parents also have concerns, which the gay community either doesn’t put much weight on or doesn’t think are legitimate.

Asked if he shares World’s concern, posted on the Parents Voice website, that gay-straight alliances are there to program children, Lau says, “maybe some of the activities will be conducted in that manner,” even though he says he doesn’t question “their good intention of helping people.”

“I don’t know yet whether the [gay] inclination is born or affected by environment or by choice,” he says. “But if a supporter of a gay-straight club counsels another student saying, ‘No, no gay is born, this is hard fact, nothing else,’ then in a way, it’s kind of programming a thought, or programming an ideology.”

He says he has a problem with the promotion of a “gay lifestyle” as a “normal and healthy lifestyle without telling people that there are also health risks with this particular lifestyle.”

World believes GSAs facilitate the normalization of minority lifestyles, specifically gay and lesbian lifestyles “being the minority not the majority.”

Burnett doesn’t think there’s a groundswell of support behind Parents’ Voice, noting that many of its supporters do not reside in Burnaby.

The larger concern for her is the cultural shift that the group represents. “There’s a growing backlash against the GLBT community,” Burnett says. “I think we’re starting to see a movement against equal rights for the GLBT community.”