A victory for the queer community happened in one of the most unlikely places in BC. Mary Polak, the Liberal candidate for the Surrey by-election was defeated in her effort to become the MLA.
You may recall her as the Chairperson of the Surrey School Board, where she spent 0ne Million Dollars to keep books that described gay families in a positive light, out of the school system.She lost the fight in court and then had to lay off 160 teachers in the fastest growing city in Canada.
Mary Polak did manage to keep YouthCO (Youth AIDS Awareness and Support group) out of many class rooms as well. YouthCO was too positive on sexual orientation for the Surrey School Board. Polak also banned Planned Parenthood and condom machines from Surrey schools.
Ms Polak’s whole political career has been built on denying Queer kids a safe place to learn. Gay Straight Alliances were forbidden, being gay bashed was compared to having “sticky-outy ears.” AIDS Awareness plays were banned. Teachers were supposed to keep quiet because if kids didn’t know about sexual orientation, they would grow up straight.
The Surrey School Board has not only been fighting against queer kids in their own district, they have been quietly doing it to the whole provincial education system. The lobbying of Surrey School board in the context of vital provincial seats in Surrey gave them a lot of clout in their fight.
Resources such as the banned books in Surrey could have been made available to teachers if the Ministry of Education made it policy. Surrey used its political muscle to ensure the Province did not list the books as a resource.
There was a ray of hope last year when the Minister of Education convened The Safe Schools Task Force made up of MLA’s to address bullying in schools. This came at a good time as thirty percent of students in the Surrey School District in a survey conducted by the District rated homophobia as a serious issue in Surrey schools.
The Safe Schools Task Force was headed up by Lorne Mayencourt, a gay MLA from Vancouver. The gay community felt finally someone will address homophobia provincially and recommend changes. It did not happen. Despite submission after submission calling for an emphasis on protecting gay kids, the report focused on “sticky-outy ears.”
Mayencourt’s report made no recommendations on homophobia. The Surrey School Board had scored another win in unabashedly enshrining homophobia in our school system. Suicide rates of young gay people are six times higher than their straight counterparts. Gay youth are more likely to marginalized, to quit school, to smoke and use drugs and to suffer from depression and stress than their straight classmates. Thirty percent of homeless youth are gay.
Mary Polak’s views are intolerant and harmful to our gay children. It was amazing to see the Liberals pick such a controversial candidate. Obviously they did not see her in that light or worse they did and they condoned her views by selecting her. It was reported on Global TV News Hour that several Liberal MLA’s were not happy with Polak’s selection.
According to Global, Ted Nebbling stormed out of a Government Caucus meeting in which Polak attended, seeing the other gay MLA, Lorne Mayencourt remaining, he called him “gutless”. Watching the television news last night, who was out front of the crowd cheering the early results at Polak’s headquarters, non other than gay MLA, “sticky-outy ears” Mayencourt.