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Analysis

Voters in British Columbia Decisively Rejected Candidates Pushing Anti-LGBTQ Policies in Local Elections

Candidates backed by anti-SOGI social conservative groups suffered crushing losses across the province

Voters in British Columbia just sent a clear and decisive message to a slate of candidates who ran on an anti-LGBTQ platform.

Municipal candidates running against British Columbia’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification initiative (SOGI 123), failed to win a majority anywhere in BC following local elections last weekend.

SOGI 123 is an educational program, designed to protect LGBTQ youth from homophobic and transphobic bullying, that has recently been a target for social conservative groups in the province.

In the end, less than a quarter of all anti-SOGI candidates endorsed by the hardline social conservative group Culture Guard managed to win a seat.

A week before local elections, Culture Guard and another social conservative group called Canadian Council for Faith and Family released a list of over 100 anti-SOGI candidates.

Some of the candidates endorsed by Culture Guard were not happy about it. A number of candidates, including the incumbent mayor of Abbotsford Henry Braun, were quick to denounce the group’s opposition to LGBTQ rights.

Candidates who welcomed Culture Guard’s support did particularly poorly on election day. Surrey City Council candidate Nicholas Loberg, who said he was “honoured” to be endorsed by the social conservative group, finished in 37th place with 0.6% of the vote.

Culture Guard’s preferred candidates also failed to win a majority on any city council or school board anywhere in the province.

There are signs the group’s efforts only served to rally British Columbians to take a stronger stand on LGBTQ policies. After PressProgress reported on Burnaby school board candidate Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson’s support for gay and transgender conversion therapy, 12 municipal candidates added their names to a letter calling for a provincial ban on the pseudoscientific practice.

The petition, launched by newly elected Victoria school trustee Ryan Painter, was signed by a number of mayoral, city council and school board candidates including  Kennedy Stewart, Vancouver’s mayor-elect.

Meanwhile, pro-SOGI candidates across BC retained or gained seats.

In Richmond, Ken Hamaguchi and Sandra Nixon, both supporters of the anti-bullying initiative, won the highest numbers of votes in their district, giving Richmond’s school board a strong pro-SOGI majority.

However, televangelist Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson, who publicly campaigned with Culture Guard and recently called SOGI “a sex activist curriculum” (SOGI is actually not a curriculum, but an optional learning resource), finished third from last place in Burnaby, where she was running for trustee.

Unfortunately, voters in Chilliwack re-elected anti-SOGI trustee Barry Neufeld, who peddles anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and misogynistic junk science – but on the bright side, they did deliver a majority to pro-SOGI trustees.

Incumbent trustee Dan Coulter, who last year spoke out in support of the anti-bullying initiative, topped the polls with 10,700 votes, joined by three pro-SOGI newcomers on the seven-member board.

Newly elected pro-SOGI trustee Willow Reichelt promised voters in Chilliwack that she would “work hard to make sure our schools are safe and inclusive for all students, parents and staff members.”

The BC Liberal MLA for Chilliwack Laurie Throness, who spoke previously in support of both Neufeld and opposition to SOGI in general, called for “healing” and “gentle speech” between the opposing sides.

Humbled by the results, Neufeld also appears to be trying out a gentler tone.

In a Facebook post addressing “those persons who currently identify as Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer, Two Spirited or whatever,” Neufeld stressed they have “nothing to fear from me or my colleagues,” adding: “WE DO NOT HATE YOU!”

“We understand that that the ideology of gender fluidity is comforting to you when you suffer from so much cognitive dissonance,” Neufeld continued, adding he understands “you are losing your mind.”

“We actually love you,” Neufeld said, “but love must be tempered with truth.”

Neufeld concluded by asking his LGBTQ constituents to carefully read the “waiver forms” and think twice before “making irreversible decisions that you may regret for the rest of your life.”

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