For the first time ever, the union representing Chilliwack teachers is picking who they think should be elected on Oct. 20.
“While the endorsement of trustee candidates has not been done before by the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association (CTA), it has become evident that this election is exceptional,” according to a CTA statement issued Tuesday.
Unsurprisingly to those paying attention, the CTA’s choices are among candidates on the left of the political spectrum. Support from the Fraser Valley Labour Council was a factor in their choice of seven candidates, as were answers to questions in a survey about teacher rights and autonomy, collective agreements, and communication with district partner groups.
But the final factor was how trustee candidates responded to a question about the now controversial anti-bullying LGBTQ resource called SOGI 123. SOGI 123 is a teaching resource that focuses on sexual orientation and gender identity, aimed to help teachers if and when the subject comes up in the classroom.
Unfortunately a vocal group of four trustee candidates have expressed opposition to the resource, calling it a means to “sexualize children” in the classroom.
Incumbent trustee Barry Neufeld has led this charge, likening himself to a modern day prophet in his opposition to SOGI 123, making far-ranging claims including that those who support LGBTQ children are “cultural nihilists” and even child abusers. He has gone so far as to claim the government may start to take children away from families and place them “in homes where they will be encouraged to explore homosexuality and gender fluidity.”
Despite calls for his resignation, and denunciation for his inflammatory remarks by the school board chair, the BCTF, the Ministry of Education, as well as a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, he continues in this vein and a number of candidates have stepped forward with anti-SOGI platforms.
“It was vital that the CTA endorse trustee candidates who solidly uphold the values of inclusion and diversity and who are committed to ensuring our schools are safe places to learn and work,” the CTA statement said. “These values are enshrined in the British Columbia Human Rights Code.”
Only one among the four incumbents is among the seven the CTA endorsed, Dan Coulter. Incumbents who are running and not on the list include Neufeld, Heather Maahs and Silvia Dyck.
The other six newcomers on the CTA’s list are Kelly Janveaux, Peter Lang, Jared Mumford, Michael Prill, Willow Reichelt, and David Swankey.
The CTA is so far the only group to publicly endorse candidates in Chilliwack, but is among other organizations that put out questionnaires to candidates. The District Parents Advisory Committee (DPAC) issued a questionnaire, as did the Fraser Valley east chapter of the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA FVE).
ARPA is an organization that aims to bring Reformed Christians to political action, according to their website. They issued a questionnaire that asked about past experience and priorities, but also asked one question about SOGI 123, one about parent control over curriculum, and one about school shootings and how to keep kids safe.
Asked if ARPA FVE would publicly endorse candidates for the Chilliwack school board, spokesperson Levi Minderhoud said no, they are a non-partisan organization.
“Our goal in sending out this questionnaire is to simply collect information on candidates and put into a single document so that our membership does not have to try to find the platforms of all 36 candidates by themselves,” Minderhoud wrote in an email. “We will also focus on distributing the answers of this questionnaire privately to our members, although an online version may be circulated through our Facebook page.”