Two steps forward, one step back

Corner Brook Pride Inc. seeking apology from high school guidance counselor

Yesterday was a good day for the LGBTQA community in Corner Brook, mostly. Mayor Greeley was on hand for a flag raising ceremony (May 17th is the International Day Against Homophobia), and, according to Corner Brook Pride Inc., he was also the first public official in the province to sign a document of support and recognition of the worldwide event.

It reads:

“I call upon the LGBT community, the citizens of Corner Brook and all Canadians to work peacefully together to denounce hatred and prejudice against homosexuals and transgendered people both within our city and beyond. We must turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists in the name of peace, tolerance and acceptance for the betterment of humankind.”

Christian Corbet, chairperson of Corner Brook Pride Inc. said that overall, the event went very well. “Mayor Neville Greeley is a most accepting an courteous mayor, so we were pleased that he signed that. We were pleased, as well, to receive a letter from Honourable Gerry Byrne, the liberal MP for this side of Newfoundland, so it was good.”

Corbet said that he had reached out to Byrne numerous times in the last few years, but this was the first time he’d heard anything back, so the letter of support was especially meaningful.

Where the rainbow ends

At Corner Brook Regional High School, health and wellness day (organized on the same day by the drug awareness and substance abuse committee) went off almost without a hitch. Almost, because Corbet had been planning on attending to present about gender identity, and instead found himself boycotting the event.

“I think the school had 34 sessions this morning helping students deal with stress,” said Eugene May, an education officer with the Western School District.

“They wanted this gentleman in the session to talk about about the stresses and the issues around the issues that teenagers and young people have in regards to gay and lesbian or gender differences.”

A Language Problem

Corbet says the problem started when he first spoke to the organizing guidance counselor.

“I did ask how the sessions were going to be run and operated, and they all sounded very good, and very informative, and an excellent venue to send a message across, and then a couple of very odd comments came from this guidance counselor. And I felt, just basically uncomfortable with what she had to say.”

According to Corbet, the guidance counselor told him about counseling at least two students about dressing to stand out (one wanted to wear a shiny silver suit to grad, the other was wearing glitter on his face).

“She indicated that she and other staff members had to sit down with him and tell him that it’s best that he not wear that, because he would be target on his back. I asked her what she meant by ‘target’, and she said ‘gun target’.”

“I [want] to sit down with them, and I would like an apology” — Christian Corbet

May says that conversation never happened.

“From our investigations, the school wanted the presentation to go ahead. The gentleman backed out… But around talking about clothing and dress and all this stuff, all I can tell you is that those conversations have not happened, and, quite the contrary… the guidance counselor is really shocked at this, that’s the only word to describe it.”

“She never spoke to the gentleman about glitter,” he said. “The day we put together should speak to for itself.”

The school has had to deal with issues of homophobia before. Earlier this year a student circulated an online petition to allow same sex couple to attend grad. The petition currently has 764 signatures, but this, too, baffles May.

“We have no idea where that came from, because we have no policy, and again, we’ve never ever, district or schools, spoken out against gays or lesbians attending graduation or prom ceremonies.”

It might be a misunderstanding, but Corbet is taking the issue seriously. He’s sent letters to the Newfoundland School Board, the Newfoundland Teachers Union, and the Western School District, and is hoping there will be some resolution.

“I [want] to sit down with them, and I would like an apology,” he said.

“Because if she says it to me — someone she doesn’t know — she says it to other people. And that’s damaging, and it goes against what our basic human rights are all about.”

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