Brandon School Division trustees to hear from dozens of delegates regarding call for LGBTQ book ban

School board trustees will hear from dozens of delegates in Brandon, Man., on Tuesday evening following a delegation’s call to remove LGBTQ, sexual education resources and other books in school libraries at a meeting earlier this month.

On May 8, a delegation led by Lorraine Hackenschmidt before the Brandon School Division board of trustees called for the removal of the resources and books.

Since then, the school division says it has received numerous calls and emails on the subject, as have local trustees, the majority of which are against the proposal to create a delegation to look into banning the books, according to the meeting agenda.

Thirty-one people have signed up to be delegates at the meeting, and it had to be moved from its original location to the school gym at Vincent Massey High School in the southwestern Manitoba city.

The public board of trustees meeting will be livestreamed on the school division’s website at 7 p.m.

Some of the push back against the call comes from local LGBTQ and sexual education groups, as well as Brandon University groups and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.

Three books sit propped up on a table.
A delgation at the Brandon School Division Board of Trustees meeting earlier this month called for some LGBTQ, sexual education and other books to be removed from library shelves. The board is meeting again on Tuesday to hear from a number of people, many of whom are agaist the proposed ban. (CBC)

Aly Wowchuk, the chair of Brandon Pride, says many community members have rallied against the idea of banning the books.

“We’re not just talking about banning or eradicating LGBTQ content in schools, but we’re also discussing banning books and censorship, even, unfortunately, racism and there’s just a lot more at stake here than us,” she said in an interview on Monday.

“It’s really important to keep these books accessible for those who need them.”

Portions of letters to the school boards were included in the meeting agenda, including one from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P) to set the record straight.

It wrote to the school division to call attention to the fact that its resource, “How we are Failing Children: Changing the Paradigm” was taken out of context and a “gross misuse” by Hackenschmidt.

In the May 8 meeting, Hackenschmidt equated child abuse images online with “transgender books” and that children are being enticed to go down a “dangerous path.”

“C3P does not support or condone the ways in which our resources were misrepresented, and we were deeply troubled to see them used in this way,” it said.

The organization said its resource was designed to specifically address the removal of images and videos that are posted online of children being sexually harmed and abused. Its other resources are regarding children being exposed to adult pornography online.

Representatives from Brandon University’s gender and women’s studies program wrote in to share Statistics Canada data from 2019 that almost half of students in post-secondary institutions experienced discrimination on the basis of gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.

“Representation offered in books can help at-risk students find the understanding, acceptance, and inclusion necessary to thrive as successful students and empowered individuals,” the Brandon University letter said.

People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier, who is running as the PPC candidate in the Portage-Lisgar byelection, will be at the meeting on Tuesday, CBC News has confirmed.

“Why push the sexualization of our children in our society? We don’t need that,” he told CBC News in an interview last week, when asked about the call for a ban on some books.

Advocates for age-appropriate resources that reflect the diversity of the community say the books are not meant to sexualize children, but to protect them from harm by giving them tools to understand their bodies, what is appropriate and what isn’t.

The resources also helps them understand what they may already be feeling or experiencing if they feel they are alone or abnormal. The resources are meant to address alienation that could lead to mental health issues, self harm or suicide.