The letters are illustrated with hand-drawn knives:
“You want to destroy our children! You are our enemy! You will be shot!” reads one typed letter, embellished with drawings of knives dripping with blood.
The Burnaby School District in Vancouver’s policy is intended to combat discrimination against LGBT students, but has been criticized by some parents for insufficient consultation and lack of transparency. A group called Burnaby Parents Voice (BPV) has picketed school board meetings on the policy. Some protesters have had Bible verses written on placards, while others have waved signs with sayings like “Respect Parental Rights.”
“I like my kids to be brought up in the natural way,” one protester told CTV British Columbia.
BPV has accused the Burnaby School Board of trying to indoctrinate youth into becoming gay.
A local conservative online radio host, Kari Simpson, filed a complaint against the anti-homophobia program in September, alleging it is “designed to dupe parents and introduce children into homosexist politics and pornography.” Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Lindsey Houghton told Xtra that an investigation into the complaint revealed “no evidence or anything to suggest that there is anything criminal going on.”
The school board is up for election and the policy is expected to be a hot topic. BPV is running five candidates in the election.
BPV has offered a $2,000 reward for any information that leads to the arrest of the person or people who sent the death threats.
“The idea behind the policy is actually to protect all kids. In specific, LGBTQ youth because they are way more prone to suicide,” said James Sanyshyn, vice-president of the Burnaby Teachers Association.
The draft policy, which is available on the Burnaby District School Board’s website, is intended to help promote “safe, respectful and inclusive learning environments” by addressing “homophobic harassment and bullying.” Burnaby is the 13th school district in British Columbia to implement such a policy.
Gender Focus spoke to some of the Burnaby students. One told them:
“They want us to respect parental rights, but what about student rights? We’re the ones who have to go to school every day. We’re the ones who have to watch our friends get bullied in the hallways just for being gay.”
The project, Our City of Colours, was started by student Darren Ho following the backlash. It is aimed at addressing the invisibility of LGBT people in ethnic minorities. Like much of Greater Vancouver, Burnaby has always had large ethnic and immigrant communities.
In 2001, four men with baseball bats beat Aaron Webster to death because he was gay. The identities of the murderers weren’t discovered until 2003, but it was proven that all four were youths from Burnaby, and two of them were under eighteen. They had driven 45 minutes to Stanley Park to have some “sport” beating up gay men.
Local police are investigating the threats.
Photo by Kelley Mari