We are a government for the people, and I mean all people. These are the values we campaigned on and now elected as government, we continue to work for everyone by ensuring that every single person is heard.
One community in particular with historic levels of under-representation in politics and other positions of power are those identifying as LGBTQ2S. It’s important that people see themselves reflected and have their voices represented around decision-making tables. Throughout Canada, our caucus profile puts British Columbia at the top of the list, with the largest number of LGBTQ2S members elected in any provincial or territorial legislature, and I couldn’t be prouder.
As a caucus, we work hard to raise the visibility and community profile of various LGBTQ2S causes and events throughout the year. One such historic change we implemented was spearheaded by my colleague, Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA for Vancouver-West End. He played a massive role in advocating for the protection of gender identity and expression in the BC Human Rights Code in 2016.
In light of a recent string of anti-SOGI events, I felt it was important to highlight the success and importance of SOGI-123 when it comes to creating inclusive learning environments. SOGI-123, for those who are not aware, is a teaching resource that represents all individuals regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
To dispel a popular misconception, SOGI is not a curriculum, it’s a resource that teachers and educators are free to use. It has age-appropriate template lesson plans to help focus on valuing diversity, respecting differences, and exploring themes including sexual orientation and gender identity.
Nearly one in five BC students identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or not exclusively heterosexual. Additionally, as of 2017, LGBTQ2S youth were seven times more likely than heterosexual youth to attempt suicide, and 64% of LGBTQ2S youth felt unsafe at school. SOGI has been proven to reduce discrimination, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts for all students. Put simply, SOGI saves lives.
Homophobia and transphobia affect all students, whether they identify as LGBTQ2S or not. We helped implement SOGI and fight for educators in our province to be able to access tools in schools to assist them in creating safe and welcoming environments for students. SOGI-123 is now implemented in all 60 school districts in the province, and all of BC public school students are now represented by educators in the BC SOGI Educator Network. In addition, last month representatives of B.C.’s K-12 education partner groups formed a new Provincial K-12 SOGI Collaborative, with a shared goal of supporting students of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions. The collaborative will outline a plan for the next three years to create learning environments that are safe, acceptable, respectful and welcoming for all B.C. students.
It is reassuring that all of BC’s education partners for K-12 schools are committed to ensuring every school – public and independent – are places where students feel safe, accepted, respected and welcome regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, or background.
I know personally, that if a resource like SOGI had been around when I was growing up, I would not have felt the shame or confusion I did about who I was or the feelings I was experiencing. It is a relief to know that kids growing up today are being introduced to all family structures, cultures and the LGBTQ2S community throughout their education. SOGI has helped open these conversations in hopes to better respect one another, making these values the new social norm.
Another initiative I’m proud of is our government’s motion opposing conversion therapy in B.C. on May 13, 2019:
“Be it resolved that this House affirm its opposition to the practice of conversion therapy for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, questioning, transgender, queer, two-spirited, intersex or any other minor”
It was a historic moment in our province and one that I was very proud to be a part of. All three parties in the House unanimously agreed that this practice is simply unacceptable and lacks any medical justification. Conversion therapy is a widely discredited practice of attempting to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity through counselling, behaviour modification and often medication. This antiquated and discriminatory practice is currently not allowed in the BC medical system and is not covered by MSP or any other medical coverage. However, there are still concerns as it is still offered by some private businesses, religious groups and organizations.
The harms that come with wanting to change a loved one’s sexual orientation leads to life-long emotional and psychological impacts. The European Union, the World Health Organization, and the Canadian Psychological Association all openly oppose it. We now finally, join the City of Vancouver, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia in opposing this contentious practice.
We started by amending the BC Human Rights Code, helped implement SOGI resources across all districts, worked across party lines opposing conversion therapy, and improving access to publicly funded, gender-affirming lower and top surgeries. It’s clear, our government remains strongly committed to supporting the equality, diversity, and human rights of the LGBTQ2S community in this beautiful province we call home.
We will continue the fight to ensure that everyone has access to equal opportunities in life, because we are a government that works for all, and not just the loudest few.
We see you, we hear you.
You are loved.