No BC Liberal party leadership contenders have responded to a homophobic-bullying survey circulated by the BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) and Pride in Education Network (PEN) while all the NDP candidates did, it was announced Feb 22.
On Jan 8, Christy Clark promised the gay community that homophobic bullying would be among her top priorities if she were to become premier.
Clark released her own anti–bullying platform in a video statement Feb 22. In it, she promises tougher bullying laws, restoration of funding for school programs like Roots of Empathy and training for educators to make schools safer.
“For older students, I’ll educate them about accepting diversity and the strengths it brings to our society,” she says in the video. “As part of that, I’ll make Pink Shirt Day part of the school calendar.”
Nowhere does Clark specifically mention homophobic bullying.
“The province has an obligation to be proactive and not hide behind the generic label of bullying,” BCTF president Susan Lambert says.
According to a national survey conducted in 2007 by the queer lobby group Egale Canada, 75 percent of queer students feel unsafe at school, and one in four said they were physically harassed for being gay.
Six out of 10 queer students surveyed also reported being verbally harassed for their sexual orientation, while half said they hear homophobic slurs on a daily basis.
“The silence on the part of politicians of all political stripes is deafening,” PEN member and retired teacher Faune Johnson says. “We’ve asked for action for many years, but politicians continue to ignore the plight of LGBTQ students.
Among NDP leadership hopefuls, Adrian Dix committed to ensuring anti-homophobia education and strengthening human rights legislation, while John Horgan committed to legislation prohibiting all discrimination.
Gay NDP–ers Mike Farnworth and Nicholas Simons agreed with all the survey’s suggestions. They included providing school resources to help queer youth, amending the School Act to prevent bullying based on perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, requiring school boards to document and report on compliance with code of conduct laws, supporting gay teachers in being out at school, and adding gender identity to the BC Human Rights Code.
The Liberal government’s 2003 Safe Schools Task Force, when Clark was education minister, heard much about homophobic bullying. However, no recommendations to address homophobia came out of that process.
Clark should have had her “top priority” front and centre in her new education policy released Feb 14, BCTF second vice–president Glen Hansman told Xtra Feb 22.
“It can’t be a top priority if it doesn’t appear in your education platform,” Hansman says. “Words are cheap.”
On her leadership campaign website, Clark’s biography says she was named the 2009 Woman of the Year in BC by the Consumer Choice Awards “for creating the anti-bullying campaign ‘Pink Shirt Day.’”
While it was at radio station CKNW where Clark began to push the idea, even the pinkshirtday.ca website says, “We wish we could take credit for this idea, but it comes from two incredible Nova Scotia high school students.”
Clark’s claim that she created the campaign has gay Vancouver school trustee Jane Bouey angry.
“It’s taking credit for other peoples’ work,” Bouey says.