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May 17 anti-LGTBQ+ protest does not represent Vanderhoof: Mayor Thiessen

Community rallies to support Share the Love Day
Second annual Share the Love Day celebrated by SD91. (Submitted photo)

By Norman Galimski

A group of about 10 people gathered in front of Nechako Valley Secondary School to protest School District 91’s second annual Share the Love Day on May 17.

At around 8:30 a.m. a small crowd congregated in the school’s parking lot demonstrating their disapproval of the initiative, Sasha Striegler Iannone, of the Good Neighbours Committee (GNC), told the Express.

“We were sent a screenshot of the rallying cry, which included words like ‘vile ideologies being taught to our children’ and how they needed to stand up against this,” Striegler Iannone said. “They were specifically protesting Share the Love.”

May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. SD91 hosts Share the Love Day as part of their initiative to make schools more inclusive and safer for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities, the school district stated on May 12.

The GNC quickly picked up on the protest and organized a counter-demonstration.

Two volunteers, consisting of long-time GNC member Lisa Striegler as well as Striegler Iannone, set up in front of the school board office, located around the corner from the high school at 3 p.m., dressed up in bright-coloured clothing and carrying signs of support.

“We wanted to show solidarity and physical support for the school board office,” Iannone said.

As alumni filed out of the high school, nine staff and students as well as district Coun. Kevin Moutray joined the group to commemorate the moment. Students and drivers waved and honked in support as they rode by the group.

Mayor Gerry Thiessen said the morning’s demonstration was not representative of the community and that, overall, the occasion was very positive despite the protest.

“I think that as things are brought to our attention of places that we may have overlooked — this is a chance for us to be involved,” the mayor said. “I think our community as a whole, is very much caring and is a community that values the citizens that are in our community.”

“[Share the Love Day] gives us an opportunity to make sure that we’re not only a community that cares and is inclusive, but that we show each and everyone the value that they bring into being a part of our community … Education and understanding is absolutely key to having a caring community. So, to have a day that focuses on those that haven’t felt that they’re part of the community, in the past, gives us all the opportunity to be a little more understanding and a little more caring going on from here.”

Despite the small opposition group to Share the Love Day, Striegler Iannone said she could never have imagined an event like this when she was growing up in Vanderhoof.

“These events are supremely important for showing people that they are loved,” she said. “No one should feel unsafe in their own home. Especially kids … I’m very glad to see my community, engaging with them and celebrating them.”

Assistant Superintendent for SD91 Mike Skinner said their schools are diverse and the school district wants to represent everyone in society.

“We want to honour and make sure that the LGBTQS+ community that has really been marginalized have a voice because they are part of our society and they are part of our schools as well.”

READ MORE: School District 91 holds first ‘Share the Love Day’

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