Rally in the Valley

Rally in the Valley - Social Justice 12After reading Kevin’s post, The Plight of the American Gay, it struck me that we gay boys and girls up here sometimes take it all for granted. Same sex marriage, partner benefits, and gay friendly cities. Check. Check. Check. We’ve got it all… at least in Vancouver or Toronto or Montreal.

What’s going on in the ‘burbs? How is the next generation doing… the ones who are actually coming out in high school in their home communities? What’s going on in BC’s Bible Belt – the Fraser Valley? What about Prince George or Smithers? Last fall, I got a little glimpse. I rallied in the Valley. I waved a big ol’ flag in downtown Abbotsford. Holler.

Check out my little hand held account.

Once upon a time, the Correns, two happily married men, took on BC’s Ministry of Education and won. BC’s education system discriminated against GLBTs because there was nothing in the curriculum about us and the contribution we make to society. With their help, the Ministry created Social Justice 12, a course to teach kids about discrimination, activism and human rights. Homophobia is just one piece of the course. It covers sexism, racism, genocide, etc. The list is long.

Last spring, more than 90 kids signed up to take the course at a high school in Abbotsford. They never got the chance. The Abbotsford School Board didn’t like all that gay talk. They tried to change the course, eliminating all things gay. The Ministry, to its credit, said no. Offer it as is. As a result, the Board cancelled it. Then, the fight was on.

The local paper was full was homophobia, hate and intolerance. Check out this little gem…

“What about Social Justice 12? It’s just the icing on the cake. You can expect to see pro-homosexual indoctrination right down to the kindergarten level in the public schools starting next year.”

Or this one…

“Let homosexual activists indoctrinate their own children. Hands off those children who do not belong to them!”

And my total fave…

“These people are on a very slippery road and don’t even know it. At the end of that road is the sign: ‘Welcome to Sodom and Gomorrah’.”

Led by a group of students, community groups, parents, local teachers and even some progressive church groups, the public relations war against discrimination raged for weeks. It all culminated in the “Rally in the Valley”. Hundreds of students, parents, community groups and teachers marched through downtown Abbotsford waving rainbow flags. I was there. I waved my first big ol’ rainbow flag and I did it to support those kids. They’ve got it tough, but their determination to live their lives as “queer youth” in suburbia is pretty cool. I didn’t have the courage to do it until I was 22 and out of university.

After the rally and threats to take the board to the BC Human Rights Tribunal, they backed down and allowed the course. Democracy and equality in action. For a far more professional take, check out CTV’s story.