- Michael Craig, Owen Sound trustee for the Bluewater District School Board, representing his opinions, not official Board policy

In April, a group called Get Real was invited to speak to students in several Bluewater DSB schools.  Their agenda, as explained on their web site, is to combat “homophobic, transphobic, and racist language” with “friendly, honest, diverse, and personal-story driven” discussions around sex, gender and race. 

The Get Real message is welcome in Bluewater schools because it is consistent with Ministry of Education policy which confirms that in Ontario we are “partnering with community organizations to better support Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer or Questioning, and Intersex (2SLGBTQI+) students and their families.”

Also, the Ontario Human Rights code “provides that every person has the right to be treated equally without discrimination because of sexual orientation.  The Code aims to create a climate of understanding and mutual respect … so that each person feels a part of the community and feels able to contribute to the community.”  Your Bluewater Board is supportive of these principles because they speak to the central importance of empathy and compassion in all our interactions, in and beyond our schools. 

I am a member of the Board’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Education advisory committee which includes a student, parent, staff rep and community members.  Its role is to promote Gender Sexuality Alliance clubs, Indigenous education and anti-racism.  We have passed policies that dictate that the Pride Flag will be flown or displayed in all Bluewater schools in June.

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees. 

Some people, including those who disrupted a Get Real workshop, oppose the discussion of sexual and gender orientation, even though this only happens at age-appropriate grades.  They are driven, I think, by the conviction that such subjects are exclusively the right of parents, despite the fact that these subjects never come up in many homes, leaving children uninformed or misinformed. 

I felt it was important that the Bluewater Board confirm where we stand, so I sponsored a motion at the May 15 Board meeting that, as follows, referenced the above ideas:

Therefore, be it is resolved that Bluewater District School Board welcomes workshops and presentations in our schools by both internal, (Board-related), and external groups that combat homophobic, transphobic, and racist language and attitudes and promote compassion, and will continue to proactively promote diversity, equity and inclusion for all students in all respects.

One trustee wanted to delete the word “combat” that calls on the Board to be proactive in fighting homophobia and transphobia;  which, after all, is Ministry policy.  Her amendment was defeated and the Board passed the motion with a wide majority.

I hope this is the end of the story because we don’t want, at Bluewater DSB, to be distracted by what have been called culture wars.  Several Ontario Boards have been inundated by protesters who do not approve of Ministry and Board policies on sex education, and apparently don’t respect the Human Rights Code.  They are welcome to their honestly-held opinions, but we have a school board to run. 

However, I make no apology for inviting comment and even opposition to the motion I promoted.  It is only through mutually respectful dialogue that we can change hearts and minds and build a system that is fair, inclusive, and respectful of all people.  And meanwhile, teach all children to read, improve their math scores, and encourage a love of the arts.  That’s the big job!


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