Whitehorse Daily Star

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Jeanie Dendys

School staff not tackling discrimination: students

The Yukon government will reassess the implementation of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) policies after a letter from Porter Creek Secondary School students outlined discrimination and lack of support in Yukon schools.

By Gabrielle Plonka on November 8, 2019

The Yukon government will reassess the implementation of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) policies after a letter from Porter Creek Secondary School students outlined discrimination and lack of support in Yukon schools.

The letter, sent to members of the legislative assembly on Tuesday, has been published on p. 15 of today’s Star.

It calls homophobic and transphobic language “commonplace”, and charges staff with turning a blind eye to abuse.

It highlights a lack of sex education, safe spaces and counselling for LGBTQ2S+ students and accuses some staff of refusing to honour the correct pronouns of transgender students.

The letter is signed from the Porter Creek Secondary Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), the student organization which made news last spring for their petition to ban conversion therapy. (Legislation is planned for introduction to the house next spring, thanks to the students’ activism work.)

The GSA’s communication was tabled in the legislature on Thursday by NDP Leader Kate White, who hopes searing it into public record will help inform Yukoners and instill accountability within government.

“What we are finding is the SOGI policy isn’t being enacted, and it’s systemic across all Yukon schools,” White told media.

“It’s our responsibility – as parents, as allies, as friends, as neighbours – to make sure that discriminatory language is not acceptable.”

Jeanie Dendys, the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate and LGBTQ2S+ issues in the territory, pledged to meet with the GSA and work toward implementing more effective policies.

“I’m so happy that they’re bringing their voice forward,” Dendys said.

“I’m going to sit down with them, and directly talk to them. I believe that every young person (and) every student in our schools should be safe.”

White and Dendys noted that the SOGI policy, which outlines practices to ensure safety and inclusion for LGBTQ2S+ students, is less than a decade old in the territory.

Dendys told reporters that a recent public engagement initiative in schools showed the imperfect state of inclusivity.

The consultation was powered by the B.C.-based organization QMUNITY and resulted in a report published last May. It found schools lacked effective discrimination policies and provided the Yukon government with 70 recommendations.

“The SOGI policy came up as a high priority to do more work on,” she said. “We know that we’re not there yet.”

Dendys said she is working with the Department of Education to build an action plan for schools based on those recommendations.

Future changes could include adjustments to the SOGI policy, Dendys said. It is a “high priority” issue for the government, she said, but changes will not take place overnight.

“What I know for sure is: it’s going to take time to change the culture in our territory around LGBTQ2S+ discrimination,” she said.

The minister suggested that engagement with students will be vital to making improvements.

“We said, ‘We will do nothing for the community, without the community,’ and that is exactly what we’re doing,” Dendys said.

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee was not in the legislature Thursday, so was unavailable for comment on the students’ letter.

No one was available from the Yukon Teachers’ Association to comment for this story before press time this afternoon.

Yukon Party MLA Scott Kent told the Star he hopes to see a timely resolution to students’ concerns.

“I’m hopeful that … when the minister gets the chance to sit down with the students from Porter Creek, she gets a chance to hear their concerns, and hopefully they can move fairly quickly on some of their concerns,” Kent said.

He expressed concern that overhauling the SOGI policy would be a long process ultimately unhelpful to students currently facing discrimination.

Kent said he hopes to see resolutions in this or the next legislative sitting, which would lead to solutions before the end of the school year.

He added he would “certainly welcome the opportunity” to meet with GSA students after their meeting with Dendys, and will reach out to them next week.

He suggested the Yukon government should work to meet with gender and sexuality groups in all schools to assess the breadth of the problem beyond Porter Creek.

“High school is hard enough, as it is, without some of the concerns that are raised here for LGBTQ2S+ students,” Kent said.

Comments (21)

Up 0 Down 0

NATHAN DOIRON on Nov 22, 2019 at 5:44 am

Sogi should not be in elementary schools. Young kids shouldn't be subjected to being confused about who they are because of agendas being pushed by adults. It's dangerous to teach young kids they can change their gender. I'll be taking my kids out of school if they are going to be taught this, and I suggest you do to. This is ridiculous a bunch of people without kids are pushing agendas on what our kids are being taught. Is drag queen story hour next? This has gone to far.

Up 16 Down 3

I identify as a Attack helicopter on Nov 13, 2019 at 7:49 pm

Anie....so true, that participation you shared with us.
Folks like that have their place however, as it reveals heaps of the author.
It has been my life experience that the inclusive groupies are the most divisive folks in the spectrum of our society.
Often but not always they reveal the epic actual bigotry and actual hatred they carry each day with their ideological crusades.

Getting so stupid out here with the perpetually offended, I expect we will be doing a float test soon...kinda like the Salem witch trials.

It floats...must be a homophobe, a racist, a xenophobic fool, a Christian, a colonial!!! Cast the non believers out, get the straw, start the fires...then chant...
Diversity and inclusion is our strength over and over and loud...till a lowly dissenter is outed.
Then out comes the pitch forks, the fires stared, the battle cry made...
The mob gets agitated like a bunch of Orcs, in a bloodlust for non believers not falling in line, keeping up with the times etc.

Oh yeah...that non contributing participant you spanked?
Their mind is so open the brain may have fallen out, hence the gibberish?
Or they lean so left they fell over...and can’t get up.

Gotta head back to base for fuel and to rearm.

Thanks for your participation despite very little of mine actually adding anything constructive either to this, the most pressing issue apparently that has paralyzed our society grinding everyone to glacier speed...crushing anything that dares getting in its way with state sanctioned epic inertia.

For clarity I could care less of ones sexuality whatever it may be.
I am however beyond sick of hearing about anyone’s sexuality.
The only folks that should care of your sexuality, are the ones you have sex..with.
Why is that so radical?

Up 24 Down 1

Anie on Nov 13, 2019 at 11:15 am

Aiden, your comment contributes nothing to the conversation. Bigotry and sweeping generalizations, such as your assumptions about people born between 1945 and 1969, are simply wrong and will not help stop bullying.

Up 7 Down 19

Resident on Nov 12, 2019 at 5:23 pm

@My Opinion
You say that, yet transgender people are still being murdered because straight men find them icky, find their existence emasculating, or feel 'tricked'. Homosexuals are still being assaulted because they kissed their partner in public, something any straight couple can do without recourse. There are still gay men hiding behind their 'beards' for fear of having their orientation exposed.

Too many people absolutely care what others do in their privacy of their homes. I can't blame these groups for standing up for themselves and pointing at the problem. Being visible is a form of protection.
I think after a hundred or more years, those communities have the right to celebrate their survival. Most want the same rights and treatment as anyone else. Some are just rude jerks, just like anyone else.

Up 13 Down 1

Juniper Jackson on Nov 12, 2019 at 5:18 pm

Groucho d"North: Your comment is so well written, and captures the real problem. Thanks for posting it.

Up 36 Down 4

My Opinion on Nov 12, 2019 at 1:33 pm

@resident. You are correct. However, I think what you are missing is that most fundamentally don't care what people are doing in their own lives or in their homes. The problem is the radicals that are in your face with their life style, that I believe is what creates the push back. They just need to chill a bunch.

Up 48 Down 6

JW on Nov 12, 2019 at 1:23 pm

If you want equal treatment then act like an equal. Stop flaunting your ideology and expecting everyone to treat you special because of it.

Up 39 Down 3

Groucho d'North on Nov 12, 2019 at 1:01 pm

I got to wondering why Yukon teachers might be less than enthusiastic to step in and deal with the alleged discrimination noted in the complaint letter composed by a group of gender activist students.
I went in search of the SOGI policy, of course it is not available on the YG websites - either of them. I wanted to better understand if there are any rules of engagement and how complaints are supposed to be addressed by the various players and if teachers and others who may be drawn into this political battlefield are supported if they too are guilty of not agreeing with the complainants.
If there are no rules to maintain a sense of decorum in these disputes, then it becomes a He said- She said debate (forgive my pronouns). Recent media reporting has clearly demonstrated there are two sets of rules at work where some on one side of the political spectrum can wear blackface numerous times and skate through unmolested beyond minor criticisms, while another can bark about the lack of respect by some people not wearing poppies and be fired for it, with a side helping of vitriol and character judgments against him.
If I was a teacher I would run quickly away from getting involved in these situations lest one of the “woke” individuals focus their political anger against me for not taking their side. Some rules and a clear understanding of their application is required. There are too many double standards and the referees are sleeping.

Up 45 Down 4

resident on Nov 12, 2019 at 12:21 pm

At the end of the day, is your life really affected by someone else's sexual or gender orientation?
How much money have we wasted as a society trying to force people into defined boxes?
If everyone involved is consenting, mind your own damn business. People who can express themselves and live freely are usually happier, healthier, and productive members of society. Stop wasting my tax dollars on this moral-panic garbage.

Up 7 Down 22

Marjorie Blake on Nov 12, 2019 at 11:28 am

The courts of the Yukon should be in this bracket discriminating against someone who is not from the Yukon, yet the judge has given more favour to Family and Children Services, and place grandchildren in a non aboriginal foster home. Excluded their mother from having any contact with the children, she had no say in where the children will be placed. My grandmother rights were ignored, and I was told the judge won't let the kids leave the Yukon because Yukon is their home, originally from NWT.

Up 40 Down 9

A Generation X’er on Nov 11, 2019 at 12:09 pm

Being Remembrance Day, all I can think is if today's snowflake generation was around exactly 1 century ago and had just got through dealing with the real horrors of being part of World War 1 and losing family and friends and being killed in war themselves how could they have handled it? In only 100 years how has Canada gone from raising young people who had to step up, be tough, get it together and sometimes sacrifice everything, into today’s generation that wants ‘safe spaces’ while living in one of the most tolerant societies on this earth just so they can exist?

Up 16 Down 62

Aiden on Nov 10, 2019 at 5:15 pm

I see a small number of small minded folks in the comments section who can't keep up with the times lashing out over things that don't affect them. Typical boomer stuff. Keep fighting students! I see you, and I support you.

Up 34 Down 5

Ex- bullied person on Nov 10, 2019 at 3:36 pm

Going through Highschool I was bullied on a daily basis. From songs being written about me, physical harm, name calling, dealing with "disdain" from other students, and at times, what seemed to be teachers joining in (amazing when a young teacher tries to be cool and partakes in the activities that other students are doing in order to "fit in."), and a plethora of other "events;" I offer this small bit of advice:

Keep your eyes open to what you're doing as well. I learned to navigate highschool by figuring out the ways to interact with the "bullies."

As an adult, I have to say, I also partook in bullying. I joined in name calling, fat shaming, joining in when some embarrassing fact came to light. It was group think. In highschool you'll be a part of it. "These things are popular, these things aren't." "These are things you can make fun of, there are things you can't" It's ever changing (evolving). The learning experience of high school (my time), was self identity and navigation. It took me a couple of years to find an identity that was my own. Once I had that I was able to interact with other classmates better. By the time grade 12 hit, we were all basically friendly with one another. There wasn't a "cool" group and people that got picked on; it was just a set of groups that interacted.

That ability and experience is vital for your growth. Going to government or some authority each time you experience any sort of hardship is what leads to dependency. It doesn't teach you to stand up for yourself or how to let some stuff slide.

An honest suggestion, for those that feel they are being discriminated against, is to take a diary and write in each thing that is said against you. Date, time, place, and by whom. After 30 days present that to a teacher or principal.

I just searched two names: Rehteah Parson and Reena Virk. Those are the cases that brought bullying to the national forefront. I'd suggest you read up on what those two went through before the end of their lives (RIP) and ask yourself whether your bullying is leading you to go down that path, or, whether this is just a case where a thicker skin may help.

Up 36 Down 3

Not News Anymore on Nov 10, 2019 at 1:41 pm

“Some people are gay . Get over it”. ( Richard Dawkins ) .

Up 41 Down 8

... a little question on Nov 9, 2019 at 2:46 pm

Bullying, definitely no place for it...

my question revolves around the use of the term "homophobic."
(quick definition) having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people.

having or showing a dislike of or a prejudice towards people who bully.

If you dislike the sons of Odin; A-OK, no problem there!
If you dislike white power groups; A -OK, no problem there!
If you dislike the Church; A-OK, no problem there.

There are competing beliefs on homosexuality. Some may be for it. Some may be against it. But this matter is being convoluted.
1) are you asking that people be more tolerant?
2) are you asking that people accept?
3) or are you against bullying in general?

The second one brings in an aspect of social engineering. You're telling people what they HAVE TO accept even if it goes against their religion, norms, or preferences.
For some, "homosexuality," isn't a choice, do those people deserve to be discriminated against? Well, no.
But this isn't a question of discrimination. What is being forwarded is that, "I have to like and be non prejudicial to an individual who has beliefs or practices that go against my own."

I'd strongly suggest that the government decipher these two issues. Overall it seems like the argument is more about bullying versus bullying a specific group. It's been awhile since high school but if I remember correctly:
Gingers, fat kids, indians/natives, Jews, French, Paki's, rednecks, spicks, valley girls, sluts, dumb, smelly, messy, gay, the foreigner, that kid that comes in from like 50 km away ... were all groups that faced some form of harassment.

I'd ask whether the teachers are condemning some forms and not others, that would make me believe in a lack of empathy or discriminatory behaviour?

Up 36 Down 6

Groucho d'North on Nov 9, 2019 at 9:25 am

You can't legislate:
Against people being a**holes,
Barking dogs,
and more...

Up 67 Down 22

Matthew on Nov 9, 2019 at 6:38 am

Wow.. children are mentally sick these days.. sorry folks, there are only 2 sexes, teasing will always continue in school, it's what kids do. Now if you have purple hair, and identify as a non gender, well what did you think would happen? I mean wtf is LGBTQ2+!? Isn't a lesbian gay anyways? Isn't a queer gay too? So why so many damn names for being gay!? And this is the next generation, damn were screwed..

Up 60 Down 25

Dave on Nov 9, 2019 at 3:22 am

The snowflake generation whining once again.

Up 61 Down 19

Juniper Jackson on Nov 8, 2019 at 7:20 pm

There is a very, very inexpensive way to settle your gender identity crisis/emergency... This is a school.. one should be learning how to support yourself after your parents decide its time for you to get out of their basement. A teacher should be teaching. A teacher should not be making decisions on a child's identity. Perhaps counselling? I'm pretty sure this push did not start with the kids.. I had rather hoped to avoid the craziness here..but no.. apparently crazy spreads like oil on water.

MY opinion.. be a kid.. go to school, learn, play soccer, write poems and song lyrics, build a snowman...be a kid.. when you are of age.. 18 or 19, and still have a gender identity crisis/emergency look in your pants. If you don't like what you see there, it is the place to start to change things.

Up 51 Down 18

jc on Nov 8, 2019 at 5:07 pm

You can legislate all the laws you want, but some people have their own set of moral values and nothing is going to change them. Even if it means jail time. Straights shouldn't have to conform, the late comers do. He, she, him, her, was the pronouns when I was growing up and they will remain until I'm gone to glory. So, jail me.

Up 33 Down 17

Rocky on Nov 8, 2019 at 4:15 pm

Free boxing classes.
Problem solved.

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