From the Editor: It’s important to know your candidates in this election

Art by Kristen Frier

Art by Kristen Frier

My first editorial examined the growing hate in Canada, and unfortunately it’s incredibly stark in British Columbia’s municipal elections. 

A movement is growing online encouraging voters to #KnowYourCandidate. It ignited in September, when independent Richmond school trustee candidate Dean Billings sent unsolicited photos of a transgender youth to a teacher. 

Billings is blatantly against the SOGI 123 curriculum included in B.C. public schools and gender transition for youth under the age of 18. “A picture is worth a thousand words. Whether a burning village in Vietnam or a video of George Floyd,” he defended in a tweet in response to his messages being made public. 

Karin Litzcke is running as an independent for school trustee in Vancouver on a similar platform against transgender supports, just without the illegal sharing of photos. She also lost in the last two federal elections for the far-right People’s Party of Canada. 

A Christian nationalist group in B.C. is working to mobilize candidates across Canada to protest SOGI 123, and it is only one of many that participated in convoy occupations earlier this year. 

And also in B.C., a new political organization “with roots in conservative Christianity” is endorsing school board candidates. According to the CBC, many candidates running with the party support political positions “inflamed by the pandemic, with rhetoric similar to right-wing groups in the United States — including criticism of public health policies and school programs about racism, gender and sexuality.” 

Last year, after the anti-trans protest outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, I wrote an article interviewing experts about the devastating impact these hateful attitudes have on gender-diverse youth. I cited a study by the Canadian Institute of Health Research, which found transgender youth have a higher risk of reporting self-harm and psychological distress, and “concluded that the mental health disparities faced by trans youth in Canada are considerable and underscored the need for policies and laws protecting trans people from discrimination.” 

Morgane Oger, founder of the Oger Foundation and running for Vancouver Council this election season, said it perfectly to me in an interview. 

“When [kids] see people politicizing who they are, and demonizing and vilifying and pathologizing who they are, they see hatred. Because, in fact, that’s what hatred is.” 

Dr. Travers, a sociology instructor at Simon Fraser University, said kids already know they are pushing against social forces, and the message that adults send when they make a point of publicly condemning the support trans youth have gained is devastating. 

And it is devastating. It breaks my heart for kids today to see this unnecessary, unfounded, hate grow in the province that I’ve called home all my life. Attacking the trans community is only the start, because the hateful campaigns won’t stop there. 

Elections are an opportunity for us to make a difference in our community and policies. We can elect people who believe in human rights, who share our own values and beliefs. Before you vote, research the candidate and party, then decide who you believe is best to elect in office for the next four years. 

We must be diligent in advocating for our rights, our friends rights, our families rights, and our communities rights. We need politicians and school board members who will support advancing equality and improving a 2LGBTQ+ friendly environment in our cities and our schools. 

We must be united this voting season to start quenching the growing hate in our province.