A recently-erected billboard across the lake from Kelowna, in Westbank First Nation, has spurred a heated conversation about what is being taught in schools, which is exactly what the owner of the website behind the sign intended.
The sign features an angry “woke activist” teacher wearing a mask, standing in front of a pride flag.
“We are aware that it is provocative,” said P.J., the owner, of ‘getawake.ca’ who only agreed to speak under anonymity, claiming he fears severe harassment and bullying.
P.J. wants to make parents aware that what they call “extreme political ideologies” like critical race theory, social justice, sexual orientation and gender identity are being taught in public schools in B.C.
Carrie Broughton, founder of Trans Parent Okanagan, however, said that “we’re not teaching about trans people anymore than we are teaching about cis heteronormative people.”
She said that she has heard from numerous families about the harm that seeing the billboard is causing queer children.
Those wanting to have their voices heard are welcome to attend the regular Central Okanagan Parent Advisory Council Meetings. The council is an official way that parents can communicate with the Ministry of Education.
In an interview with Capital News, P.J. said that he has an issue with what he calls the “radical left” ideologies “being pushed on kids.”
Carrie made it clear that any bullying is inappropriate and should immediately be dealt with by parents, teachers and principals. However, she said that “I don’t see the harm,” in having children be asked to call each other by gender-affirming pronouns.
P.J. said that concepts like homosexuality and gender orientation should be left for parents to discuss in their homes.
Carrie agrees that parents should discuss diverse gender identities and sexualities at home, but said that is also important for children to be exposed to diverse perspectives. She said that it is important to consume literature that both opens windows to diverse perspectives, and that reflects your own identity. She added that it is also important that schools provide these resources to students as for many years a narrow view of society is all that was represented in schools.
While P.J. is of the belief that some teachers are taking it upon themselves to teach students about the “woke” ideologies without making parents aware, so that families don’t have an opportunity to opt out.
“It is infuriating and frustrating… The claims are delusional,” said School Trustee for the Central Okanagan School Board, representing the Kelowna Electoral Area, Wayne Broughton about the billboard.
“If you want people to be more accepting of each other, you have to educate them,” said Wayne. He said that teachers are governed by the curriculum but have the autonomy to teach lessons that they feel caters to their classes’ needs. While sexual orientation and gender identity education is not officially in the curriculum, giving students access to the resources is required.
He said that unfortunately, home isn’t always a safe space to discuss sexuality and gender identity for all children and that for some, school is the only place that they can learn about these things.
When anti-trans narrative is spread without another perspective, people who are more extreme feel more emboldened to act out against marginalized communities.
“I’m concerned about where it’s going,” said Wayne, adding that making people aware of diversity is for the better.
“What matters is that children feel valued and respected,” said Carrie.
The controversial sign is located in Westbank First Nations land but is on private property, which has then been leased to a signage company.
“WFN is an inclusive community and encourages people to speak out when they see something they feel is wrong,” said Westbank First Nations communications in an email.
“It’s our understanding these signage companies do not censor content, however, as that is the responsibility of the Advertising Board of Canada.”
The board reviews complaints made by the public and from there determines whether the ad has violated an advertising code. To learn more about the advertising code of Canada visit adstandards.ca.
The billboard is on property owned by signage company BCbillboards. The company has not responded to interview requests.