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Lawyer known for anti-gay cases seeks school board seat

Cindy Silver running in North Vancouver by-election

 A woman who once told a House of Commons committee that homosexuality is wrong is seeking a seat in Saturday’s North Vancouver school board by-election.

A strong federal Conservative Party supporter, lawyer Cindy Silver was on the anti-gay side in the fight to ban gay-friendly books in Surrey.

That case eventually went as far as the Supreme Court of Canada, which told the Surrey School Board to take a second look at the books since trustees had used inappropriate criteria in their decision to reject them.

In fact, Silver has argued on the anti-gay side in several high-profile cases (many of which have actually resulted in civil rights being expanded by Canada’s highest court).

It’s Silver’s involvement in such cases that leads queer Vancouver school trustee Jane Bouey to call Silver “a danger” to work to make schools safer and more inclusive for queer youth.

“She would be an obstacle,” says Bouey, a member of Egale’s education committee for safe schools. “I think she’s claimed she won’t be but I find that difficult and hard to believe.”

Bouey says she supports Silver’s opponent Cyndi Gerlach, who has also been endorsed by The Georgia Straight.

Silver has been involved in other Supreme Court cases beside the Surrey books fight.

In the 1995 Nesbit-Egan case, she was on the team opposing Old Age Security Act benefits for same-sex partners. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled the Charter of Rights had to be read as including sexual orientation among the illegal grounds for discrimination.

She was also involved in opposition to Alberta teacher Delwin Vriend’s discrimination case in the Supreme Court of Canada.

In 1991, Vriend, a teacher in Alberta, was fired because his sexual orientation was deemed incompatible with a newly created statement of religious belief adopted by the school where he worked.

He filed a human rights complaint but Alberta’s Human Rights Commission refused to hear it because Alberta didn’t then protect its citizens from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Vriend took Alberta to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled in 1998 that provincial governments could not exclude gays and lesbians from human rights legislation.

Silver was also involved in court challenges to equal marriage in both BC and Ontario.

Despite repeated utterances against homosexuality, Silver has always maintained she has just been doing her job representing clients.

Silver could not be reached for this article.

Silver also acted as staff legal counsel for the anti-gay family-values group Focus on the Family from 1993 until 1998, speaking for it in opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage.

She then worked as executive director of the Christian Legal Fellowship Of Canada.

It was in 2001 that she told a standing Committee of the House of Commons that “I happen to believe that homosexuality is wrong. If that makes me homophobic, then these pamphlets are telling my children that their mother is homophobic and putting a very nasty name to something which I feel is a deeply held conviction.”

In 2006, she was denounced by Egale for being a signatory to a letter to MPs urging them to vote against same-sex marriage.

In 2005 when running for Parliament, Silver wrote a letter to the North Shore News saying she’d poll her constituents if Prime Minister Stephen Harper re-opened the debate on same-sex marriage.

However, Egale pointed out, her website at the time documented a speech she gave in May 2005 saying she was against Bill C-38.

Egale’s then-spokesperson Craig Maynard asked why anyone should believe a word Silver said.

Silver served one three-year term on the North Vancouver school board after being elected in 2002.

Saturday’s by-election was called to replace trustee Jane Thornthwaite who resigned after getting elected to the BC legislature.