(Guest post by Arleigh McKerlich)
Children’s book “Asha’s Mums” was one of the first books written for elementary age children that portrayed a family with same-sex parents. Written by Rosamund Elwin and Michele Paulse and illustrated by Dawn Lee, it was first published in 1991.
In the book, Asha is told by her teacher that she can’t go on a field trip because her permission slip is filled out incorrectly and that it is not possible to have two mothers. After her mothers meet with the teacher to explain their daughter’s family situation, Asha is allowed to go on the trip. The other children learn of Asha’s mums and a discussion is had about whether this is a good or bad thing. The conclusion offered by the teacher is that it is just fine, as long as your parents take good care of you.
In 1997, kindergarden teacher James Chamberlain applied for approval of this book and two others (“Belinda’s Bouquet” and “One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads”) for use as teaching aids in his classroom. In response, the Surrey School Board issued resolutions that stated resources from gay and lesbian groups were not approved for use or redistribution in the school district.
After these resolutions were passed, resources like library books, pamphlets, and posters that promoted sexual diversity and tolerance were removed from all Surrey schools. Chamberlain — supported by teachers in other school districts in the Lower Mainland where these materials were allowed — launched a court case to challenge the ruling of the Surrey School Board. After much publicity and appeals by both sides, the case was considered by the Supreme Court of Canada and judgement handed down in 2002. The Court found that the Board’s decision was unreasonable and that the Board had acted contrary to provincial statute as well as its own regulations regarding curriculum materials, both of which stress tolerance and inclusion. The Court directed the decision to be reconsidered by the School District, with Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin noting that “tolerance is always age-appropriate.”
(full text of the decision available at http://www.canlii.org/en/ca/scc/doc/2002/2002scc86/2002scc86.html)
After revisiting its decision in 2003, the Surrey School Board still found “Asha’s Mums”, “Belinda’s Bouquet”, and “One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads” to be inappropriate for use as curriculum material. The Board was critical (among other things) of the books’ depiction of men, problematic and inconsistent grammar, and of the issue of dieting being inappropriate for kindergarden age children.
While 18 of the province's 60 school districts have policies in place regarding anti-homophobia, Burnaby and Surrey School Districts have not been able to develop a policy because of push-back from parents. Recently, protest and submissions from students have led the Surrey School District to say last summer that they would begin developing an anti-bullying policy in the fall that includes anti-homophobia strategies, as well as racism and physical disability
In the aftermath of the Waldorf closing the city is looking into mapping cultural resources like arts venues and spaces that resonate with city dwellers. Over at MOVments, this got us thinking about the other kinds of maps we're making and how they're helping to locate us and more importantly, guide us where we're going. Read on for details on a blueprint for a new food strategy, a development plan for a growing municipality, and how neighbourhood rebranding may (or may not) be helping East Vancouverites envision where they live.
Rethinking libraries. Surrey is leading the charge in the trend toward building libraries as places for gathering and education, rather than as stacks of books. In addition to this, the Surrey Public Library is launching a 'living books' service, where patrons will be able to take experts on a variety of subjects out for coffee and pick their brains.
Rising oceans. Cities generally prohibit the construction of buildings in areas that are vulnerable to flooding and storm surges, but a new map of Vancouver shows that by 2100 many more areas will be at risk. The entire map can be found here.
Slowing down. A local non-profit shares a perspective from the Downtown Eastside about traffic calming along Hastings Street.
Making Vancouver better. Just ahead of the Design Thinking UnConference, urbanist and architecture critic Trevor Boddy shared some thoughts about making Vancouver a better place. Some issues he cites as areas for concern: the relative lack of office space and business activity in the downtown core, the segregation of social problems into areas such as the Downtown Eastside and the lack of debate over public space in the media.
Coach houses. The Vancouver Heritage Foundation is looking for examples of old laneway houses to show that the idea is not entirely new to Vancouver.
Urban bees. Vancouver Magazine visits the roof of the Fairmont Waterfront where the director of housekeeping maintains six hives of honey bees.
Rubber sidewalk. The city engineering department has installed Vancouver's first rubber sidewalk. It's made from recycled materials and easier to walk on.
Car-free Robson. The Vancouver Public Space Network has launched a petition calling for Robson Square to be maintained as a pedestrian-only space.
Public art. Two public art projects at transit shelters aim to encourage people interact more with public space. Adorno and Nose encourages transit riders to whistle or sing while they're waiting for the bus and A Sign for the City dedicates each firing of the Nine O'clock Gun to a cultural event or historical figure.
Image: squeakymarmot via flickr.
The changing face of commercial space. Across North America, developers and planners are taking aim at shopping malls, tearing up parking lots to build housing, big box stores are moving downtown and suburban shopping centres are urbanizing. An article in the Globe and Mail looks at some current redevelopment proposals for shopping centres around Vancouver.
Casino. Paragon is seeking changes to legislations that place limits on the amount of money that can be carried into BC casinos without a Canadian bank account. They would like the province to allow casino patrons to be able to wire money directly from foreign bank accounts. But there are concerns about money laundering.
Other municipalities are concerned that a larger downtown casino will pull patrons away from the suburban casinos they rely upon for tax revenue.
The public hearing is tonight at City Hall. Should be interesting, because there are so many people signed up to speak.
Traffic. A couple weeks ago it was announced that the traffic on the Golden Ears Bridge was far less trafficked than TransLink had hoped, and was losing money as a result. Now it seems like traffic is falling short of what was predicted all down the coast. So what does that mean for new infrastructure projects like the Port Mann?
Vancouver, do you know where your children are? Census data says they’re not downtown.
Tent city returns. Housing activists are setting up again to protest the City’s lack of commitment to social housing at the Olympic Village.
The elms of East 6th may be coming down soon. They’re getting old and difficult to maintain, and the park board wants to replace them with smaller trees. Doing so will permanently alter the streetscape, something that some residents really don’t want to see.
Komagata Maru. Coming soon, a new monument to commemorate the Komagata Maru, a ship of Punjabi immigrants that was forced to return to India in 1914.
Image: mezzoblue, via flickr.