Education Minister Rob Fleming was in Chilliwack Monday to celebrate the expanded Promontory Heights elementary school, and use that as a backdrop to announce $48.6 million to help pay for a new K-8 school on the south side.
But given his presence in town and the ongoing controversy stirred up by a small group, he was asked about the LGBTQ anti-bullying resource SOGI 123, and those trustees running for election who want it removed from classrooms.
The issue was first brought up last year by Trustee Barry Neufeld who calls SOGI 123 a “weapon of propaganda to infuse every subject matter from K-12 with the latest fad: Gender theory.”
What it actually is, is a ministry approved teaching resource to help with the very real problem of bullying of LGBTQ students and staff.
Fleming weighed in on the matter last November, saying that the province will continue to move forward and “there is no turning back.”
He criticized Neufeld for speaking at a rally in Chilliwack hosted by the conservative group Culture Guard.
“It’s disturbing that Chilliwack School District Trustee Barry Neufeld attended and spoke at the hateful event held last evening by ‘Culture Guard,’” Fleming said 11 months ago. “Elected trustees are supposed to advocate for students not hurt them. In the same week that the Prime Minister of Canada announced an apology is coming for decades of discrimination and persecution of the LGBTQ community – Mr. Neufeld and ‘Culture Guard’ was spreading the same bigoted views that are part of Canada’s painful past.”
With municipal elections across B.C. coming on Oct. 20, and a small number of anti-SOGI candidates stepping forward to run, Fleming was asked Monday what he would do if they get their way.
Specifically, Fleming was asked: “On SOGI 123: If Chilliwack elects a school board that truly is against this teaching resource and say they want to have it removed from the classroom what would the ministry do, what would you do?”
Fleming deflected the question for the most part, but said that anyone running for trustee needs to “have the interest of all kids in mind.”
“There are lots of people who want to make lots of noise about side issues but student safety is important,” he said, in part.
(For his full response, see below and watch the video.)
In a follow-up question regarding whether he was concerned about single-issue candidates, he was more direct.
“I’m always concerned when there [are] extreme voices with agendas that are not really about the best interests of students and have expressed animosity about, for example, making LGBT students feel safe in the year 2018, for heaven’s sake, in our schools.”
Full question and answer of Education Minister Rob Fleming on Monday on SOGI 123
The Progress: On SOGI 123, if Chilliwack elects a school board that truly is against this teaching resource and say they want to have it removed from the classroom what would the ministry do, what would you do?
Fleming: Anyone who is elected first and foremost has to have the interest of all kids in mind. That being said, student safety student and well-being, they have to use learning resources.
I think the people of Chilliwack are going to have a chance here to decide which candidates represent the students and families in this district.
There is lots of people who want to make lots of noise about side issues but student safety is important. Working with the school district so we have announcements like we had today. The agenda should be about student success.
Candidates that speak most broadly to the well-being of students and have a vision for the school district that is positive, those are the ones that I believe Chilliwack voters will reward.