The British Columbia Court of Appeal today released its decision in thecase of Chamberlain et al v. Surrey School Board. At issue was adecision by the Surrey School Board to ban three otherwiseage-appropriate books (Belinda’s Bouquet, Asha’s Mums and One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads), solely because they depict same-sexfamilies as loving and nurturing.
The British Columbia Supreme Court had initially overturned the SurreySchool Board’s ban on the use of the books. The Court of Appeal upheldan appeal by the Surrey School Board—but only because it felt that theSchool Board resolution did not prevent the use of the books in theclassroom.
The Surrey School Board had admitted at the appeal hearing that theirresolution did not prevent the books being made available in schoollibraries. The School Board argued, however, that story books could notbe taken out of the library and read in class. McKenzie J., writing fora unanimous Court of Appeal, held that this would be an "absurd result"(para. 53) and concluded:
"I do not think that the Three Books resolution ... precluded readingthe books in class or using them as illustrations to generate discussionon a general topic of nurturing families in [the] classroom." (para. 62)
"This is all we were looking for—the ability to make the booksavailable for classroom use to illustrate the diversity of Canadianfamilies", said Murray Warren and Peter Cook, on behalf of thepetitioners. "The hypocrisy of the Surrey School Board is overwhelming—they fought this case tooth and nail, and then acknowledged that thebooks could be made available through libraries. The Court of Appealhas now gone further, affirming the right of teachers to use the booksin classrooms. If the School Board had only taken this position at theoutset, we never would have had to go to Court."
"The Court of Appeal has affirmed that teachers are entitled to usebooks dealing with same-sex families in the classroom," said GwenBrodsky who, with co-counsel Ken Smith, appeared at the hearingrepresenting EGALE (Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere), anational lesbian and gay equality rights organization. "In fact, theCourt of Appeal makes it clear that school boards have a positive dutyto espouse the values in the Constitution, including the constitutionalprinciple of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation. Under theterms of this ruling, the Surrey School Board is not permitted tointerfere with the professional judgment of teachers who choose to usethe books in the classroom to teach about the diversity of Canadianfamily life."
"For too long, lesbian and gay youth in schools have faceddiscrimination, harassment and abuse," said John Fisher, ExecutiveDirector of EGALE. "The attempt by the Surrey School Board to block theuse of resource materials that could help address this serious problemis reprehensible. EGALE calls upon the Surrey School Board to confirmin unequivocal terms that they will respect the Court of Appeal judgmentand ensure that the books are made available for classroom use throughtheir school library. The Surrey School Board has wasted hundreds ofthousands of dollars in public funds fighting to maintain discriminatoryprinciples; if cost is a concern, EGALE will be happy to donate theThree Books to their school library."
For further information:
Peter Cook and Murray Warren: 604-662-8982
John Fisher, Executive Director, EGALE: 613-291-5187
Gwen Brodsky, Counsel for EGALE: 604-874-9211
Ken Smith, Counsel for EGALE: 604-683-4176
Murray Mallard, B.C. Civil Liberties Association: 604-687-2919
David Chudnovsky, President
Nancy Knickerbocker, Media Relations
BC Teachers Federation: 604-871-1881
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