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Green (and mouldy) education leadership

At least one ministry is taking the reduce-reuse-recycle mantra über seriously.

Big holla to Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid.

Ask her for some what’s-up-with-anti-homophobia-education interview time, and her green instincts kick in.

Reduce visibility and vocal support of gay-friendly curriculum.

Reuse old media releases when challenged about the above.

Recycle same.

I’ve been waiting for the better part of this year to find out first-hand if she has an action plan, or even an original thought, about anti-homophobia policy or gay-friendly curriculum.

In April, I gave the minister of ed’s ever-congenial communications bodyguard, Scott Sutherland, a week-full of days at the beginning of May for the minister to consider.

Dead silence.

I like recycling too.  So, I sent a similarly worded request again.  

How ’bout May 17 through 21 — am or pm?

“Absolutely. You have not been forgotten,” Sutherland cheerily shot back. “I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”

It’s August, and I’ve stopped holding my breath. While I do like green, I was beginning to turn an unhealthy shade of blue.

Seems MacDiarmid is avid about reducing face or phone time with media — at least queer media. Instead, filing cabinets are thrown open, canned answers are dusted off, and dispatched.

In the midst of all the gaybashing reports and court cases, I asked what role the minister feels the education system has in fostering a gay-friendly society.

“Discrimination of any kind is not acceptable,” invariably goes the statement. “We believe schools should be welcoming environments for all students and should provide supports for all students to be successful.

“Our government passed legislation requiring codes of conduct in every school district, and boards of education are free to determine how best to meet the unique needs of their communities.”

Translation: we’ve told you what to do on paper, but really, do as you please anyway.

So the Abbotsfords feel free to pull Social Justice 12, the Williams Lakes have no compunction axing their students’ anti-homophobia events, and some 45 school districts still don’t have explicit anti-homophobia policy.

It’s like MacDiarmid’s taken a recycled page out of predecessor Shirley Bond’s media playbook. 

Even a seven-person slate of gay MPs, MLAs and city councillors got a generous taste of MacDiarmid’s green thumb.

Her response to their letter asking for action on behalf of lesbian teacher Lisa Reimer, who was fired from her publicly funded Catholic school because she and her female partner became parents?

Sorry, not the Ministry’s jurisdiction. Take it up with the Human Rights Tribunal.

How ’bout stepping away from the mounds of paper promises and platitudes and acting like a hands-on education leader who gives a damn?

In ecosystem-speak: if there’s no consistent, assertive, on-the-ground ministerial support for gay-friendly curriculum to counter the alive-and-well homophobia in school hallways, grounds, administrations and boards, then the message that’s being sent to the next generation is that anti-gay is okay.

Need proof?

Young men a few years out of high school are running around feeling entitled to scream “fucking faggot” at queers, accompanied by multiple punches and kicks very often aimed at our community’s heads.

Makes you wonder what a little preventive investment in gay-friendly education targeting their attackers’ heads might have accomplished.

Here’s the rub, Madame Minister.

The police now seem to get it. Crown-plus-court has lately shown a pulse on willingness to call a hate crime a hate crime — and act accordingly.

Your leadership in the education equation is AWOL.

If all you are willing to do is traffic in recycled words and policy without effective follow-up, then  switch portfolios with the environment minister. 

In case it hasn’t yet registered on your radar, reported gaybashings are on the rise.

So if it’s not too much trouble, could you give us an ETA on when our community can expect an education climate change on gay-friendly curriculum to be worth your political while?

The non-filing-cabinet version, please.