Code complaint against Surrey School Board for ‘denial of service’
Won’t rent Bell Centre to group opposed to Board policies
Oct. 24, 2017 (CultureGuard) — Should a school board be able to silence opposition to its policies by discriminatory practices such as refusing to rent a public facility to its critics?
That is one of the questions being put before the BC Human Rights Tribunal in a complaint filed today against the Surrey School Board by CultureGuard, a BC-based parents’ and students’ rights advocate.
October 17th, 2017, CultureGuard applied to rent the Bell Performing Arts Centre for an information presentation to parents of Surrey students and other stakeholders, planned for Nov. 22. The Surrey School District, which administers the Bell Centre, rejected the request on the grounds that “it doesn’t fit with their policies,” CultureGuard Executive Director Kari Simpson said last Friday.
The notice of rejection did not specify what policies such a parents’ information meeting would violate. Previous parents’ information rallies in Langley had drawn hundreds of parents and grandparents; Simpson says she anticipated more than one thousand people might attend the Surrey rally, and the Bell Centre is the only local facility able to accommodate an audience of that size.
CultureGuard’s previous meetings have not resulted in any angry protests. People attending the rallies were always orderly, and the rally coordinators even invited the few pro-SOGI protesters to come in to the meetings and learn information that had been denied to parents.
Section 8 of the BC Human Rights Code states that “A person must not, without a bona fide and reasonable justification, (a) deny to a person or class of persons any accommodation, service or facility customarily available to the public…”
“You cannot discriminate against a group just because you don’t agree with them, whether it be politically, or ideologically or anything else, and deny them a service,” said Simpson. “The BC Human Rights Code prohibits that kind of discriminatory practice.”
Surrey School District spokesman Doug Strachan said the district has a policy that it can deny use of a facility if there are “reasonable grounds to believe it could lead to a protest,” adding there’s indication that that could happen.”
Since there have been no protests from people attending CultureGuard’s previous rallies, Simpson questioned who Strachan expects to stage those anticipated “protests”.
“Is the School Board or the BCTF planning to send goons to prevent parents from getting full information about the SOGI program?” she asked, noting that no detailed information had been given to parents about the SOGI agenda.
“What, exactly, does the School Board want to prevent parents from hearing?” Simpson asked. “The information we’re presenting is well-researched and authenticated, and the examples we cite are taken directly from the SOGI 123 lesson plans, exactly as they are outlined for teachers,” she added.
Simpson said CultureGuard is seeking an order to compel the Surrey School Board to rent the public facility to the parents’ information meeting and to ensure no group is unlawfully denied such service in the future.