Burnaby voters overwhelmingly rejected the contentious Parents’ Voice slate for school board in Nov 19’s municipal race, instead electing all seven candidates from the Burnaby Citizens Association (BCA).
The BCA made a clean sweep for the second election in a row, taking the mayor’s seat, the entire city council and the seven-seat school board.
The highest-placing candidate for Parents’ Voice came in 10th, pulling in just a little more than half the number of votes as the lowest-placing BCA candidate.
>The Burnaby Parents’ Voice slate, consisting primarily of opponents to the anti-homophobia policy passed by Burnaby school board trustees in June, formed with the initial intention of unseating the incumbents.
School board chair Larry Hayes thanked the voters for giving a “stamp of approval” to the work the board had done in their last term in adopting Policy 5.45.
“It was a hard fight, and I think that our issue on the policy made people realize that the school board is important,” says Hayes. “It brought out the support of clear-thinking and reasonable-thinking people, to show the province that what we did was the right thing.”
Hayes says he and the other trustees have no regrets about introducing the policy, but he criticizes other parties for trying to use the issue to divide the community.
“It was something that we felt needed to be done . . . in making for an inclusive school district,” he says. “Unfortunately, we had opposition that did make it a main issue, that felt that they needed to spread misinformation and fear among certain segments of the community and to alienate.”
Hayes says the board now has a clear mandate to see that the policy is implemented effectively and to make sure that everyone in the district works together to keep schools free from bullying, intolerance and disrespect, and safe for all students.
Board vice-chair Baljinder Narang was happy to see so many voters take an interest in this year’s election and says she is both humbled and overwhelmed by the response from the voter’s booth.
“Our voters got engaged,” she says. “Our youth in particular wanted to make sure that the policy was kept and built on and not destroyed.”
Narang says there was never any question for her of not standing behind the decision to implement 5.45.
“It was not easy going into an election with such a divisive issue. We believed that we were doing the right thing and that if we didn’t get elected that we weren’t prepared to let go of our beliefs and principles on this particular policy.”
“I’m also of a different culture, and I definitely do understand the critics,” she says. “But I don’t see it like that. I see it very much as an equality issue, as a right to protect everyone as a human rights issue. And when you think of it like that, there really is no choice. You have to do the right thing by the community . . . a kid is a kid and needs to be treated equally.”
In his victory speech Saturday night before an enthusiastic crowd of hundreds of BCA supporters and campaigners, Mayor Derek Corrigan congratulated the newly elected school trustees for standing up “for the very values we believe in, despite being placed under attack.”
“Burnaby is a place of tolerance,” said Corrigan. “Your courage . . . brought out our vote, and tonight we have you to thank for this sweep, because the people of Burnaby came out to tell those who will be intolerant that it won’t happen here.”