Bathroom Policy Raises Furor in Canada

     VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) – Mandarin-speaking parents are worried that schools are injecting students with a serum that makes them homosexual in a suburb of Vancouver, B.C., where, meanwhile, in Vancouver, a lawsuit challenges school bathroom policy on grounds of “public decency.”
     Municipal elections in British Columbia will be held Nov. 15.
     Local newspapers traced the rumors to a coalition called Burnaby First. Burnaby, pop. 203,000, directly east of Vancouver, is the third-largest city in British Columbia.
     One Mandarin-speaking woman told the Burnaby News Leader that a Burnaby First member, speaking to her in Chinese, told her that only Burnaby First candidates could protect her children.
     “She said, if another party wins, they support the gays and they can also change the kids’ sex at school … at school they will give the kids something like a drug injection … and the school won’t tell parents,” according to the News Leader.
     Local news outlets, print and online, trace the rumor – which apparently is spreading only in Chinese – to a 2011 election issue in which schools tried to combat homophobia. School board candidate Katrina Chen, not a member of Burnaby First, attributed the alarming tale to opposition to the anti-homophobia issue.
     On Oct. 31, three Chinese-Canadian parents sued Vancouver School District 39, claiming its bathroom policy offends “the rule of law” and fails to “consider morality, as it relates to public decency.”
     The policy allows transgendered students to use bathroom and changing rooms at city schools that correspond to their chosen gender identity.
     Speaking out against the policy in June got two school board members kicked out of their party, the Non Partisan Association, which is challenging the ruling Vision Vancouver party in this month’s vote.
     In the new lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court, lead plaintiff Xiaofeng Huang et al. want the bathroom policy quashed. They claim it offends their rights as parents, including expectations of “their children’s privacy and safety in washrooms and change rooms at school” and “of having accurate information about their children’s gender identity and expression at school.”
     “Washroom use is an inherently private act,” the petition states. “Some students are uncomfortable with sharing very personal information or private spaces with members of the opposite sex and care deeply about privacy when using the washroom or change room.”
     The parents claim the policy’s definition of the term “trans” is overly broad and could include “a boy who comes to school wearing a skirt and a girl who plays football.” The policy allows “trans” students to use washroom and changing rooms that correspond to their gender identity, and states that the school board should strive to make gender-neutral washrooms available at “all school locations and worksites.”
     The petitioners claim that the language in the policy “defeats any discretion to refuse a trans student from accessing the washroom and change room of his or her choice” and “fails to give any guidance on age-appropriate criteria in administering the policy or on the appropriate rights, responsibilities and considerations at various stages of the transitioning process of transgender students.”
     In addition, the parents claim, the school board gives students the power to choose their gender identity and withhold that information from parents if the student chooses not to disclose.
     They claim that the school board can keep the information confidential “regardless of whether or not there are grounds to believe the parent will commit imminent harm against the child by virtue of disclosure.”
     By keeping parents in the dark about “vital information that concerns their children’s health and future,” they say, they won’t be able to make “informed decisions” regarding “their children’s cultural and religious upbringing and heritage; with whom their children will live and associate; and giving, refusing or withdrawing consent to medical and other health-related treatments for their children.”
     The parents say the school board never consulted with their children about their feelings about sharing a bathroom or change room with members of the opposite sex and failed to propose “how to accommodate the wishes of school children who are uncomfortable with sharing the same washroom and change room with members of the opposite sex.”
     The court filing cites 187 affidavits from Chinese parents as “Material to be Relied on.” Some parents gave multiple affidavits.
     The petitioners are represented by Masao Morinaga with Lawrence Wong & Associates, of Richmond, B.C.

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