This letter to the editor is in response to a column written by City of Kelowna councillor Ron Cannan. Wilbur Turner is a Kelowna-based writer and the founder of 2SLGBTQ+ organization Advocacy Canada. — Source KelownaNow
Dear Councillor Cannan,
As we step into the new year, your predictions for 2024 offer your view of various issues facing our world, nation and local community. While your opinions cover a range of topics, I feel compelled to address some of your statements.
It is both disheartening and concerning to see religious beliefs injected into political discussions, especially when those discussions include matters affecting marginalized communities such as the 2SLGBTQ population.
As a Canadian politician, it is essential to uphold the principles of inclusivity, diversity, and respect for human rights. Engaging in proselytizing by intertwining personal religious beliefs with political commentary can be damaging, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and fostering an environment where discrimination and prejudice may thrive.
Elected officials are entrusted with the responsibility of representing all citizens, irrespective of whether they share the same personal beliefs.
It is worth highlighting the casual use of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first name throughout your predictions, which may inadvertently diminish the formal respect owed to the office he holds. Political discourse should maintain a level of decorum, recognizing the importance of addressing leaders with the appropriate titles.
Furthermore, insinuating and derogatory remarks about the relationship between Prime Minister Trudeau and the NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, not only perpetuates harmful stereotypes but also detracts from the substantive issues at hand. Such comments undermine the gravity of political discussions and divert attention from the core responsibilities of our elected officials to serve the public and promote a fair and inclusive society.
Kelowna, BC — In response to a recent community statement on the rising Anti-Trans and Anti-2SLGBTQIA+ hate in the Okanagan, Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas and the City of Kelowna issued the following statement:
The City of Kelowna believes in an inclusive and diverse community where everyone is safe. We will not tolerate hate, intimidation or violence for any reason including against trans and 2SLGBTQIA+ people.
“We feel this is a very positive message to our community and the public, and it is important to note the statement includes the words hate, intimidation, and violence as these are the tactics being used against us. This leads to an unsafe environment for all citizens,” says Wilbur Turner of Advocacy Canada. He adds, “Having this statement from the Mayor and The City sends a clear message these actions are not acceptable in a society that values diversity and inclusion. This stand adds to the growing solidarity denouncing hate that is being demonstrated by allies who are leaders in local businesses, community organizations, elected officials, and concerned individuals.”
The statement Standing Together Against Anti-Trans and Anti-2SLGBTQIA+ Hate may be viewed online here which includes instructions on how to have your name or organization added as well as other actions of solidarity that are welcomed.
About Advocacy Canada
Advocacy-Canada.lgbt is a Kelowna based non-profit organization with a mission to unite and amplify queer voices in support of creating positive change on important issues.
Kelowna, BC, January 10, 2023 — Wilbur Turner, Founder, and Chair of Advocacy Canada has been appointed as the 2SLGBTQIA+ sector representative to Kelowna’s Community Advisory Board on Homelessness (CAB-H).
Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy is a community-based program aimed at preventing and reducing homelessness across Canada. This program provides funding to urban, Indigenous, rural, and remote communities to help them address their local homelessness needs.
Reaching Home supports the goals of the National Housing Strategy, in particular, to support the most vulnerable Canadians in maintaining safe, stable, and affordable housing and to reduce chronic homelessness nationally by 50% by the fiscal year 2027 to 2028.
The CAB-H is comprised of community stakeholders to facilitate the delivery of Reaching Home in Kelowna and to engage stakeholders and funding partners to work together to prevent and reduce homelessness.
The Central Okanagan Foundation, in the role of the Community Entity, is responsible for managing the Reaching Home Strategy funds under the Government of Canada and plays a leadership role in the implementation of Housing First in Kelowna. The Community Entity provides support and guidance to the Community Advisory Board on Homelessness to assist with the approval of sub-project agreements.
With input from community members we developed a questionnaire for candidates in the upcoming election for mayor, council, and school board trustees. We sent our questionnaires to candidates and asked them to respond to help give 2SLGBTQ+ voters a sense of the candidates’ support for our community. This is not an endorsement by Advocacy Canada for the candidates. We encourage voters to research each candidate (see Voting Information at the bottom of this page) in addition to reviewing their responses to the questionnaire. Our thanks to the candidates who took the time to respond.
Click on each name below to view the candidate responses. If the candidate did not submit a response it is noted.
A well-worn rainbow sidewalk greets visitors and staff as they enter the Central Okanagan Schools Board of Education Learning Centre on Hollywood Road in Kelowna. The rainbow is a symbol of celebrating and accepting diversity and inclusion. With the rise of right-wing extremist rhetoric, particularly across school trustee election campaigns in British Columbia, many 2SLGBTQ+ students and their supportive parents are concerned about an organized campaign to infiltrate school boards and turn back the clock on inclusive learning spaces.
In an article published by Kelowna Daily Courier a political action group named Parents Voice BC is promoting candidates for school boards in eight jurisdictions under the main campaign slogan, ‘Let’s Take Back Our Schools’. The group says on its website that it promotes putting students’ interest first and says the current education system is “beholden to special interest groups” such as teacher unions and activists with agendas that don’t align with the political values of many parents. A website called Unmasktheright.org distributed a press release that says many of the leaders of Parents Voice BC and its candidates hold extreme right-wing political views which they are concealing from potential voters.
An organization behind efforts to spread harmful misinformation about educational resources and inclusive policies is Action4Canada. A pamphlet produced by them accuses School District 23 of having pornographic books in their libraries as well as trying to sexualize children through SOGI 1 2 3 that has been adopted by BC Education. It appears they are using this misinformation in an attempt to sway voters as well as for fundraising purposes.
According to School District 23 Kevin Kaardal, Superintendent of Schools/CEO, parents who opt out of sexual health education at school and want to teach the topic at home may access resources from educators. He stated, “The political group in question has specified concerns in a flyer about a book entitled It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, Gender, and Sexual Health, of which one copy is available in the district as a parent resource for home education and not available for loan to students.”
Kaardal continues, “Central Okanagan Public Schools employs specially trained experts to teach sexual health education according to the Provincial curriculum, using age-appropriate lessons and resources. Educating students about anatomy, consent, sexual health, and identity is critical to their safety, health, and social-emotional well-being.”
“Public schools are safe and inclusive for everyone, regardless of their identity. Those who take issue with inclusion may pursue other educational options,” he said.
The BC Teachers Federation recently released a letter to its members stating concern over school trustee campaigns supporting hateful and discriminatory rhetoric “…that stands in stark contrast to the values upheld by teachers and educators across the province.” The letter continues, “These regressive positions go against BC’s Human Rights Code and would cause harm to students, families, and staff who are part of the LGBTQ2S+ community.”
A statement on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) was recently released by Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education and Child Care. The statement partially reads, “We know that each child expresses themselves in their own unique way and some have been bullied and ostracized in the past. All of B.C.’s provincial education partners for K-12 schools – public and independent – are standing together in solidarity to ensure every school is a place where all students deserve to be welcomed, included and respected in a safe learning environment, while being fully and completely themselves. No student should be excluded or bullied because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”
About SOGI 1 2 3
A statement from Reg Krake, Executive Director, ARC Foundation regarding SOGI 1 2 3 says, “SOGI 1 2 3 is not a curriculum, but rather a set of tools and resources to help create safer and more inclusive schools for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities. They include policies and procedures, inclusive learning environments, and age-appropriate teaching resources that are aligned to BC’s K-12 curriculum to help educators create a school environment where students feel safe, accepted, respected and welcome.”
Krake added, “We cannot control the harmful language some people use for personal or political purposes, but we can continue our work so no child grows up thinking they’re alone, the only one. All students need to see themselves reflected in the world around them – and to be seen for who they truly are – so that they can be free to be their most authentic selves and live their best possible life.”
What Can You Do?
It is now more important than ever that voters do their research on candidates and actively engage in the democratic process at the voting booth to ensure schools are safe from hate and extremism. Voting dates and information may be found on the City of Kelowna election page. Advocacy Canada has sent a questionnaire to all School District 23 candidates asking questions that are important to 2SLGBTQ+ students and their supportive parents. The results will be published after September 30th at advocacy-canada.lgbt.
Kelowna-based Advocacy Canada joins No Conversion Canada along with over 100 Canadian organizations calling on the federal government to take action on conversion practices.
Along with over 100 Canadian organizations, Advocacy Canada signed on to a Community Call to Action (announcement and links to document) prepared by No Conversion Canada requesting the 44th session of Canadian parliament takes specific actions relating to conversion practices. These actions include:
Prohibiting all forms of conversion practices,
Developing accompanying policies and funding to support survivor healing, and
Creating public education and awareness programs to prevent future conversion practices.
Conversion practices are used to attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity. These practices have been proven to be not only ineffectual but extremely harmful.
We, the undersigned, call on all Parliamentarians to affirm the inherent dignity and human rights of all Canadians, including those from the 2SLGBTQI+ community, to live free from discrimination, prejudice, and harm. We call on the 44th session of the Canadian Parliament to take immediate action to prohibit all forms of conversion “therapy” practices and sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression change efforts (collectively “conversion practices”).
No Conversion Canada Call to Action
As many as one in five sexual minority men (gay, bisexual, trans, Two-Spirit and queer or “GBT2Q”) report having ever experienced sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression change efforts (SOGIECE) – and of them, nearly 40 percent (or as many as 47,000 GBT2Q men in Canada) have experienced conversion therapy according to a 2020 report by Vancouver’s Community Based Research Centre.
The previous parliament passed Bill C-6: An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy), however, it died in the Senate due to the 2021 federal election being called. 62 members of the Conservative Party of Canada, plus one independent voted against the bill, including Kelowna-Lake Country MP Tracy Gray. Five of those who voted against the bill did not get re-elected.
The Call to Action specifies actions to be taken that expand on Bill C-6 including deregistering charities or organizations that carry out conversion practices. It also calls on the federal government to empower all levels of government, including municipalities to enact complimenting legislation.
The federal government should continue to consult with all provinces, territories, and municipalities to ensure optimal protection from conversion practices is achieved in Canada so that each government enacts complimenting legislation at their respective levels. Every level of government has different powers and a responsibility to protect Canadians by prohibiting all forms of conversion practices.
No Conversion Canada
Advocacy Canada has called on the City of Kelowna to enact a bylaw prohibiting conversion efforts, however, the city has opted not to take action, citing the British Columbia Community Charter. “We fully support the Call to Action, particularly with respect to enacting legislation at the municipal level,” says Wilbur Turner, founder of Advocacy Canada. “It is incredibly important to have mechanisms to prevent these harmful actions at every level of government.”
Advocacy Canada is currently seeking a legal opinion on the powers of municipalities in British Columbia relative to conversion efforts. The City of Nanaimo is currently considering enacting a ban. “The decision by the City of Kelowna may have far reaching consequences and we want to ensure every avenue for legislative action at the local level is explored,” says Turner.
About Advocacy Canada
Advocacy-Canada.lgbt is a Kelowna based non-profit organization with a mission to unite and amplify queer voices in support of creating positive change on important issues. The organization was founded by Wilbur Turner, inspired by his social and political awareness of issues that impact the 2S-LGBTQIA+ (queer) community. Wilbur previously led the Kelowna Pride, Fierté Canada Pride, and Living Positive Resource Centre boards.
We have some important updates to share in our efforts to have conversion efforts banned. We participated in the Kelowna Pride Festival yesterday, October 30th, and are grateful for the many supporters who visited our booth and signed the petition in support of a ban. We need a few more signatures to reach 1,000 supporters. That is wonderful news and we appreciate your support in sharing the petition to be able to reach this goal.
Global News Okanagan also highlighted our booth and message in the news yesterday which was great! It is so important to get the message out that these harmful practices to attempt to change sexual orientation, gender identity or expression are still happening and need to be stopped.
Our request to the City of Kelowna to enact a ban on conversion therapy has so far resulted in Mayor Basran providing a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau supporting the implementation of a federal criminal ban. Kelowna Now interviewed Advocacy-Canada.LGBT founder Wilbur Turner recently on this. You can read the article and see the letter from the mayor here.
Based on advice from City Clerk Stephen Fleming, the mayor and council did not proceed with passing a motion for a ban. The mayor stated that they did not have the power to institute a bylaw. They did pass a motion supporting the letter to the Prime Minister and stating their condemnation of conversion therapy. You may read a news story about this here.
Advocacy-Canada.LGBT is seeking a legal opinion on the Community Charter that governs the powers of local governments with respect to a conversion therapy ban. “It is incredibly important that due diligence is carried out and every avenue explored,” says Turner. “We feel strongly that every level of government has a responsibility to implement mechanisms to deter those seeking to carry out these practices. Municipalities throughout British Columbia may be looking at the decision made by the City of Kelowna to inform their own decisions. We want to ensure it is the right one.”
Some eighteen municipalities across Canada have already implemented laws to prohibit or ban these practices.
In the meantime, we will be carrying on with gathering signatures on the petition before we present it to the City of Kelowna.
The easy work has been done. It’s time for the next step by municipal governments.
October 24, 2021 – Kelowna, BC — Statement from Advocacy-Canada.lgbt and the Kelowna Task Force to Ban Conversion Therapy.
Historically, it has been a tug-of-war between Pride activism and city halls over declarations and flying Pride flags. One might say we’ve made progress and have learned to work together, however in a new era of activism where rainbow crosswalks adorn intersections across the country, locally elected officials are being asked to do more and some are pushing back.
Such is the case in Kelowna, where we sent a letter to the mayor and council requesting the city impose a ban on conversion therapy. While the official response from the City stated support for a ban at the federal level, including a copy of a letter from the Mayor to the Prime Minister, a local ban will not be considered on the grounds that the City has no jurisdiction in criminal matters.
While we acknowledge the fact that the City cannot impose laws that criminalize certain acts, that is in fact not what we are asking for. We are asking the City, under powers given by the B.C. government, to impose restrictions through bylaw.
Many municipalities across the country have implemented bylaw changes that prohibit businesses from providing conversion therapy services. This is what we are asking of the City of Kelowna. “What I find interesting is the City has restrictions in its business regulation bylaw on what tow truck drivers can do, but can’t see a way to stop conversion practices,” says Advocacy-Canada.lgbt founder Wilbur Turner. “I really hope council will reconsider their decision. We stand ready to support them in whatever way we can,” he added.
We believe it is reasonable to request a change to the business bylaw to prohibit businesses from providing services that seek to change the sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity of any individual.
We are calling upon our elected officials in Kelowna to step beyond symbolic acts of Pride declarations and rainbow crosswalks, all of which we appreciate, and take the opportunity to affect real change where it counts. We desire our city to be a safe space for everyone, including our LGBTQ2S+ youth who are most vulnerable to the cruel and harmful practices of conversion therapy.
Sign the petition to ban conversion therapy in Kelowna here.
We are a Kelowna-based nonprofit with a mission to unite and amplify queer voices and their allies in the community to affect positive change on important issues that make a lasting difference.
The idea for a community task force to address the issues around conversion efforts in Kelowna was formed by advocacy-canada.lgbt founder Wilbur Turner. He presented the idea to the board of Kelowna Pride Society at a meeting on June 22, 2021, and requested the support of the society. The board voted unanimously in favour of supporting the task force.
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