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2SLGBTQIA+ Voices Heard: Questionnaire for SD20 By-Election Candidates

SD 20 School Trustee By-Election

Students and parents of 2SLGBTQIA+ students in School District 20 (SD20) have a voice in the upcoming by-election! An important step towards ensuring that voice is heard is a questionnaire developed specifically for the candidates. We’re sharing the results of the questionnaire on this page.

The by-election, taking place Saturday, April 20, 2024, will fill the trustee position for Electoral Area 2 (City of Castlegar & part of Electoral Area J of RDCK). The questionnaire itself is the result of direct community input, focusing on issues that matter most to voters concerned with creating a safe and inclusive space for 2SLGBTQIA+ students.

This questionnaire was sent to the four candidates in this by-election. We received responses from three candidates by the deadline of March 30th.

Ensuring a safe and inclusive space for 2SLGBTQIA+ students in schools is paramount, and strong representation of their voices is key to achieving this. This questionnaire is a crucial step in that direction. It’s important to emphasize that the initiative to provide representation for 2SLGBTQIA+ students is not about excluding parents from the conversation; it’s about creating a space where all voices are heard and valued. In fact, fostering a supportive environment for 2SLGBTQIA+ students goes hand-in-hand with creating a positive learning environment for all. By prioritizing open dialogue and collaboration between parents, educators, and the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, we can build a school system where every student feels empowered to reach their full potential. This questionnaire is a powerful tool to ensure that the voices of those most directly impacted – 2SLGBTQIA+ students and their families – are informing the decisions that shape their educational experience.

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Rainbow Vote Kelowna – Candidate Questionnaires

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.

Candidates for Mayor

Colin Basran

Tom Dyas

David Habib

Glendon Charles Smedley – no response

Silverado Socrates – no response

Candidates for Councillor (eight to be elected)

Susan Ames

Chris Becenko – no response

Chris Bocskei – no response

Amarit Brar

Ron Cannan – no response

Sacheen Collecutt (Spirit Alliance) – no response

Greg Dahms

Maxine Dehart

Indy Dhial

Darrin Fiddler – no response

Gail Given – no response

Bal Grewal – no response

Charlie Hodge

Daniel Joseph – no response

James Kay

Davis Kyle

Amarjit Singh Lalli

Gord Lovegrove

Tom Macauley

Elaine McMurray

D. Ben Norman – no response

Brian Rogers – no response

Zach Sawatzky – no response

Dan Schlosser – no response

Anthony Shephard – no response

Mohini Singh

Luke Stack

Peter Truch

Rick Webber – no response

Noel Wentworth

Chris Williams (Spirit Alliance) – no response

Loyal Wooldridge

Candidates for School Trustee (four to be elected)

Chris Becenko – no response

Wayne Broughton

Tovey Demman (ParentsVoice BC) – no response

Teresa Docksteader (ParentsVoice BC) – no response

Chris Fieber (ParentsVoiceBC) – no response

Julia Fraser

Val Johnson

Erika Shephard – no response

Lee-Ann Tiede – no response

Voting Information

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Are Okanagan Schools Safe from Extremism and Hate?

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 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