Efforts to introduce gay-positive materials into the British Columbia school system have led parents’ groups there to demand the resignation of the province’s education minister.

The issue heated up in late March when the B.C. Teacher’s Federation passed a resolution calling for programs to eliminate homophobia from the province’s public school system. The teachers also approved a motion to provide leadership in promoting greater social acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle.

Pro-family groups immediately protested the federation’s action. In a petition directed to teachers and principals, a B.C. parents’ group asked that the two recommendations not be implemented.

“We would like to express our concern that both resolutions would open the door for homosexuality to be taught in the classroom,” the parent’s group said. “We feel that our rights as parents to protect our children from exposure to values that are contradictory to ours would be violated… We do not want our children to be taught that homosexual practice and lifestyle are right and normal. Sexual orientation should not be part of the school curriculum.”

The issue intensified in late April when the Surrey, B.C. public school board voted to band three children’s books that feature same-sex parents. B.C. Education Minister Paul Ramsey, however, criticized the board’s action and took part in a gay rally organized to protest the board’s decision.

Some Christian fundamentalist leaders have accused the education minister of promoting an anti-family agenda, and have called for his resignation. “I would invite Paul Ramsey to step down before he gets kicked out,” said Alfredo Lavaggi, a leader of Price George B.C.’s pro-family forces.

Ramsey meanwhile, remains unmoved. He has suggested that parents’ groups and the organizers of protests against the teachers’ action are promoting intolerance of gays and lesbians.

Families’ rights

According to a report in the Vancouver Sun, Ramsey also criticized a campaign initiated by the conservative Citizens’ Research Institute to have parents sign a declaration of family rights. The declaration forbids a student’s participation in school programs or activity that “discusses or portrays the lifestyle of gays, lesbians, bisexual and/or transgender individuals as one which is normal, accepted or tolerated.”

The Citizen’s Research Institute described programs to combat homophobia as thinly veiled attempts at social engineering. The group said the sponsors of these seemingly progressive programs often have ulterior motives attached – in this case to foster in the minds of impressionable students the view that homosexuality is perfectly normal.

A second group, the Family Action Council, has also taken issue with the B.C Teachers’ Federation for its pro-gay stand. In a statement to The Interim, council supporter Paul Formby said the program is a denial of parents’ rights to instill cultural, religious and moral values in their children. Formby said parents and family groups must regain control of students from elements that would promote divisive, anti-family practices.

“At this critical time many parents with children in the public system remain frustrated,” Formby said. “They are willing to fight for change but at the same time they do not want to leave their children in the system using them as battering rams, and however much they want, they simply do not have the means to home school or to send their children to an independent school.”

Formby called on Catholic and denominational schools to take the lead and open their doors to students from the public system.

“There is no longer any place for lifeboat ethics,” Formby said. “Children from families who care cannot be left to drown.”