The leader of British Columbia’s Conservative Party is under fire for a social media post that critics say compares teaching students about sexual orientation and gender identity to the genocide of Indigenous children in residential schools.
Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad acknowledged the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in a Sept. 30 post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“Today we remember what happens when the Canadian government thinks raising children is better than parents,” read Rustad’s Saturday post, which was also shared on his party’s official Facebook page.
“I will always stand with the parents.”
Rustad’s post was immediately criticized by residential school survivors and fellow MLAs, who said it was politicizing the deaths of children in residential schools to support the parental rights movement – which seeks to protect B.C. and supports a ban on teaching about gender identity (SOGI). ) in schools.
Those who support parental rights say parents need more information and input about what their children are learning in school, something Rustad previously said in a Sept. 20 statement. The position was supported.
The catch-all term “parental rights” has been used in Canada and the United States to lobby for legislation to require parental consent for children and adolescents who are segregated in schools. Want to use names or pronouns — measures that some LGBTQ advocates say harm transgender people. Youth.
Critics of the term say it is a dog-whistle for anti-trans policies and a misnomer, as it excludes LGBTQ parents and suggests that parents’ rights outweigh the rights of their children. There are more.
CBC News contacted Rustad for comment. In a phone call on Sunday his office said he would not be available for an interview before publication.
Called the leader’s comment ‘shameful’
Residential school survivor Celeste George, a member of Nakazadli Whuten First Nation near Fort St. James, B.C., said after seeing Rustad’s post on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the day is to honor victims and survivors. Residential school was, “infuriating”.
“It’s not even a comparison, (it’s) the real idea that he can use this day to further his hatred, to further his agenda,” said George, who is also a former anti-racism teacher.
“It was really scary for me, knowing that hate has taken so much away from us.”
She said Rustad’s post would fuel anti-Indigenous racism and anti-trans sentiments, a concern also expressed by Florence Ashley, a transfeminine associate professor of law at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
“For any politician to compare a highly marginalized group demanding rights to cultural genocide is absolutely disgusting,” Ashley wrote on Sunday.
BC New Democrat MLA Ravi Parmar called the social media post an “insulting comparison.”
“It is shameful to celebrate this day to spread fear and attack the rights of gay children,” he wrote on X.
This is an insulting comparison.
Today is a day to reflect on truth and reconciliation. It is shameful to use this day to spread fear and attack the rights of queer children.
Stop using this important day to spread hatred. https://t.co/cN9xj827bR
Harsh Walia, a human rights lawyer and former executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, wrote that “weaponizing (the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation) in this way is appalling.”
“Despicable,” Walia said in a post on X.
Conservative Party gets new recognition
Rustad was first elected in 2005 and previously served as Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation under the BC Liberal – now BC United – government.
He previously hit back after commenting on why Indigenous members of his community are getting COVID-19 vaccines ahead of older members of the population in 2021.
In August 2022, he was kicked out of the BC United caucus for sharing an online post casting doubt on the science behind climate change.
Rustad sat as an independent until February, when he joined the BC Conservative Party. A month later, he was acclaimed as party leader.
Another BC United MLA, Bruce Baneman, crossed the field to join Rustad in September, and the two-MLA party was officially recognized in the legislature two weeks earlier.
Rustad has previously supported parental rights and has stated that he wants to end the teaching of SOGI in schools.
“Parents raise children – not the government, and we have laws in British Columbia to protect children who are unsupervised at home,” he said in a Sept. 20 statement.
A National Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available to provide support to survivors and affected people. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour service at 1-866-925-4419.
Mental health counseling and crisis support is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week or via the Hope for Wellness Hotline at 1-855-242-3311. through online chat,