B.C. Conservative leader causes uproar with anti-SOGI comments in Legislature
Conservative Party of B.C. Leader John Rustad stirred controversy with his first question in the House in his new position on Oct. 3, 2023. His comments about SOGI were dismissed by Premier David Eby and the education minister.
Tuesday marked the first day back in the B.C. Legislature for the fall sitting, and with his very first question as leader of the Conservative Party — which now officially has party status — John Rustad managed to cause uproar.
Pointing to recent protests, Rustad took aim at Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI 123) resources in B.C.’s schools, asking if the education minister would “look at the divisions that this is creating.”
“Parents are concerned about the sexualization of their children in this NDP government’s education system. Will the minister admit that SOGI 123 has been divisive, an assault on parents’ rights, and a distraction on student education?” he asked.
Rustad’s question immediately drew the ire of Premier David Eby.
“I welcome the member to the House as the leader of his new party, but I’ve got to say, this is not an auspicious start. When you talk about the issues of the day for British Columbians — cost of living, housing, we heard from the BCUP, health care, addiction, mental health — to come into this place, to use the authority of his office, his new party, to find a small group of kids in our province, to leverage all of that, to make them feel less safe at school, less safe in our community, to feed the fires of division in our province and bring culture war to British Columbia, it is not welcome,” Eby said.
“When he sat on this side of the House, he supported those same policies, honourable chair. It is outrageous that he would stand here and do this. He sees political advantage in picking on kids and families and teachers and schools who are just trying to do their best for kids who are at risk of suicide. Shame on him. Choose another question.”
source : Rob Shaw CHEKNEWS https://twitter.com/RobShaw_BC
Rustad’s Anti-SOGI Stance Is Blasted in the Legislature
Eby says Conservative leader wants to bring division and culture wars to BC.
Oct 3, 2023 – Andrew MacLeod / The Tyee
Premier David Eby slammed BC Conservative Party Leader John Rustad Tuesday for choosing to use his first questions in the legislature since his party gained official status to criticize how sexual orientation and gender identity is addressed in schools.
“I have got to say, this is not an auspicious start,” Eby said. “It is outrageous that he would stand here and do this. He sees political advantage in picking on kids and families and teachers and schools who are just trying to do their best for kids who are at risk of suicide. Shame on him.”
Known as SOGI 123, the province’s sexual orientation and gender identity resources were developed with input from school districts, the University of British Columbia and Ministry of Education. They include lesson plans for kindergarten to Grade 12 that are deemed appropriate for each grade, as well as templates for administrative policy and professional development for teachers.
The goal is to create a safe and inclusive environment. Supporters say having policies and procedures that explicitly reference SOGI is proven to reduce discrimination, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts for all students.
There is, however, a fringe minority in B.C. who are opposed to SOGI and including LGBTQ2S+ information in schools.
“Thousands of British Columbians, many of them from minority communities, have been protesting against SOGI 123,” Rustad said in the legislature’s first sitting of the fall, adding that it is “an assault on parents’ rights” and a distraction from education.
The BC Liberal government introduced SOGI 123 seven years ago, with support from the NDP, when Rustad was in cabinet. The BC Liberal Party changed its name to BC United earlier this year. Rustad was kicked out of the party more than a year ago, then joined the BC Conservative Party and became leader by acclamation earlier this year. The party recently gained official party status when Abbotsford South MLA Bruce Banman crossed the floor from BC United to join him.
The status gives the party access to more resources than the MLAs would have as independents and a right to greater participation in proceedings in the legislature, including an opportunity every day in Question Period.
Eby said Rustad was using the authority of his new office to make a small group of kids in the province feel less safe in schools and the community, and “to feed the fires of division in our province and bring culture war to British Columbia. It is not welcome.”
Rustad said it’s the government that is creating division. “This isn’t about attacking a particular group of people,” he said. “This is about having a policy that is inclusive, that is anti-bullying, that is supportive, so everybody feels safe. But right now we have kids that are running home from school and going to the bathroom because they don’t feel safe in school, and that is this government’s fault.”
He called for a “less divisive” approach to anti-bullying in schools.
“I’m so saddened that the member opposite is talking about this,” said Education Minister Rachna Singh. “Here we are trying to create inclusive safe spaces for our children, where every child belongs, and the member is the one who’s trying to create these divisions.”
In B.C., focusing on anti-SOGI positions has tended to be a political loser. In recent byelections, BC Conservative Karin Litzcke came a distant fourth with a Vancouver-Mount Pleasant campaign that opponents labelled “transphobic.”A more mainstream BC Conservative candidate, Mike Harris, came second in Langford-Juan de Fuca.
In the 2022 school board elections, most candidates who ran on “parents’ rights” platforms were not elected.
In what was the first question period after a four-month break, BC United Leader Kevin Falcon and MLAs focused their questions on the failure of the government to better address housing affordability and BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau asked about climate change and spending on wildfires.