(Submitted photo: Laurie Guerra)

(Submitted photo: Laurie Guerra)

B.C. city councillor resigns as AutismBC director amid SOGI controversy

AutismBC president Gary Robins says Laurie Guerra’s resignation is effective Nov. 12

Surrey Councillor Laurie Guerra has resigned as a director of AutismBC amid growing pressure involving a meeting she recently attended that was said to be in opposition to the SOGI resource.

It was not a paid position, according to AutismBC, and her resignation is effective Nov. 12.

Guerra was at the meeting, along with fellow Surrey Councillor Steven Pettigrew.

The Now-Leader has reached out for comment from both Guerra and Pettigrew.

The SOGI program, according to sogieducation.org, “aims to make schools inclusive and safe for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities” and “equips educators of all backgrounds and experiences with tools and resources for supporting marginalized LGBTQ students and for creating safer and more inclusive school environments for all students.”

News of Guerra’s resignation comes after a petition was launched, calling for the new Surrey councillor to resign from AutismBC. As of Tuesday morning, more than 1,300 people had signed it.

Vancouver resident Mirella Russell launched the petition and said Guerra’s resignation is a “small victory,” but added: “I don’t call it a victory, really.”

“AutismBC, in their release notifying us of her resignation, noted it was all based on unfounded information. Am I 100 per cent happy with the response from AutismBC? No. But I’m happy with the outcome,” Russell elaborated.

But Russell said Guerra’s resignation “sends a strong message to the public” and “to people in positions of power.”

“I am the mother of an autistic boy and from his birth, I’ve been fighting for his inclusion,” Russell told the Now-Leader Tuesday morning. “When I define inclusion it means inclusion for all.”

Russell said Guerra has “been very silent about her position” and “never came forward and spoke publicly about what inclusivity means to her.”

Russell noted that SOGI is not a curriculum, but a “resource” and “an educational tool for teachers to access, and parents to access, to teach children about kindness.”

“When you oppose SOGI, you oppose inclusivity,” said Russell. “I think nothing she could say would’ve made it better but it would be great to hear from her on her position.”

An outspoken Langley father who has a transgender teenager echoed Russell’s comments, and had also called for Guerra’s resignation from AutismBC.

“Inclusivity is inclusivity,” said Brad Dirks, adding that Guerra’s attendance at the recent meeting was “extremely concerning” to him.

“Nobody is saying that she can’t have her beliefs and opinions about LGBTQ+ students & families. But when you hold such an important role as Director of AutismBC, there’s cause for major concern. I’m glad she did the right thing by stepping down,” Dirks said.

AutismBC President Gary Robins announced Guerra’s resignation in a statement on Nov. 13.

“Over the last few days, some concerns and negative perspectives about AutismBC have been expressed by our members, by others in the autism community, and in social media,” Robins wrote in the statement. “While the basis of these issues is unfounded, we are deeply concerned about the undue stress this situation has caused. Our Past President Laurie Guerra has resigned as a director of AutismBC, effective November 12th.

“Our guiding light is to be a leader in the Autism community, providing education, training, information and support for families,” Robins added. “We want to ensure that our strong commitment to inclusion of all people is clear. We want to preserve the trust of the community, and we will fortify our endeavor to be transparent and accountable to all members of the community. As President of AutismBC, I encourage all those in our community to continue to engage with our activities and learn more about the important work we do across British Columbia.”



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

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