Vanier students demand gay straight alliance

More than 120 pink-clad protesters packed the lobby of the Yukon legislature yesterday to demand that the administration at Vanier Catholic Secondary allow a gay-straight alliance at the school.

More than 120 pink-clad protesters packed the lobby of the Yukon legislature yesterday to demand that the administration at Vanier Catholic Secondary allow a gay-straight alliance at the school. Many also questioned why the territory is publicly funding a school that tries to teach that being gay is wrong.

Vanier itself was strongly represented by students who said they disagreed with Bishop Gary Gordon’s conservative approach to religious education. Many spoke in support of two openly gay Vanier students – Liam Finnegan and Shara Layne – who took public stands against the bishop’s policies earlier this month.

The protesting students said they came with the full support of their teachers.

“The teachers are supportive of us being here. They understand that it’s what the bishop has set as policy, but a lot of the teachers disagree with it, they don’t think that’s right,” said Grade 12 Vanier student Ashley Renwick.

Renwick and her friends are part of Vanier’s social justice club. Daynika Jim is also a member. She was one of the students who helped cover up Layne’s locker after it was vandalized with the word “faggot” and the principal allegedly refused to fix it right away.

Jim said she wants to see Education Minister Kent allow a GSA at their school.

“Heck yes. My friend Liam (Finnegan) and I have been trying for a couple of years to get one going, and we had it for a little while but then our counsellor, Ms. Morgan, she had to leave. We need one of the higher-up teachers to say this group is OK. It would be great if (Vanier principal) Mr. Frison would say that, but it’s not going to happen,” Jim said.

When Vanier science teacher Brian Findlay arrived at the protest, he was met with cheers and high fives from Renwick, Jim and a group of their friends.

“I’m kind of muzzled on this issue. I’m just here,” he said. In terms of seeing his students stand up for a cause they believe in, Findley said, “it’s always great, the more the merrier.”

Vanier students Elliott Berg and Kevin McLachlan said it’s time for their teachers to take a stand as well.

“It is very small number (of people) that are making the big decisions at our school, with no consultation with students or the teachers. That’s where I see the big problem and the big divide. I think it’s time for teachers to speak up as well, and say that we disagree with the direction our school is going,” said McLachlan.

The Education Department does not allow Yukon teachers to speak to the media without prior approval, and calls to Vanier’s school council have repeatedly gone unreturned.

“The student body is definitely completely against (the policy), and absolutely we’re getting a bad rap but in my opinion, rightfully so,” said Berg.

He said only the administration and the bishop support the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality. He’s worried that the increasing conservatism at the school is driving away students and teachers.

“I think people need to recognize that this started about three years ago with the new principal and the new bishop coming to town. It’s been slow, but to me this is not a surprise. The Catholic Church always tries to keep things hidden and secretive. None of the administrators or the bishop have been willing to speak to the media,” said Berg.

McLachlan said that students at Vanier have been talking with the vice-principal at F.H. Collins, Christine Klassen-St. Pierre, and members of that school’s GSA about starting an inter-school club that would be more difficult for the bishop to ban.

The protesters were joined by NDP Leader Liz Hanson, interim Liberal Leader Sandy Silver and NDP Takhini-Kopper King MLA Kate White.

Protest organizer Owen Williams said he also extended a personal invitation to Education Minister Scott Kent, but it apparently wasn’t accepted.

“I haven’t seen him here, which is unfortunate because it would be wonderful if he did turn up. He would simply be supporting the Education Act, which I think he has done, and he’s beginning to do more,” said Williams.

Vanier’s policy came under fire earlier this month when parents complained about a policy document on the school’s website that called homosexuality a “disorder” and homosexual acts an “intrinsic moral evil.” Kent has since ordered the document removed, and he said in an open letter to the bishop that those teachings can have no application in any Yukon school, including Vanier.

Neither Vanier principal Ed Frison nor Bishop Gary Gordon have returned repeated calls from the News about the controversy.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read