Manitoba Parents Allege the Province's Government Discriminates Against LGBTQ2S+ Families

Written on 09/01/2021
Contributing Columnist

MANITOBA — The Manitoba Human Rights Commission is being ordered to reconsider a complaint filed by LGBTQ2S+ parents over school curriculum — CBC News reported.

Parents who filed the complaint are getting another shot at making their case after a Court of Queen's Bench justice agreed with them when they sought a judicial review of the complaint after the Human Rights Commission dismissed it.

On Aug. 17, Justice David Kroft issued his written judgement ordering the commission to look at the complaint again.

Michelle McHale, Karen Phillips and Sonja Stone were the LGBTQ2S+ parents who filed the complaint in 2017. They claim the Manitoba government is discriminatory by not having gender identity or sexual orientation in their curriculum and learning materials.

Even though a 40-page investigative report by the commission sided with the parents and suggested the complaint go to a public hearing, the Human Rights Board of Commissioners (appointed by the government) voted to dismiss it in 2019.

Stone, McHale and Phillips immediately sought a judicial review in November 2020.

Stone identifies as queer, claimed she had to home-school her child after they were bullied by classmates. She feels the process is taking too long; meanwhile, nothing has been done to change the curriculum.

The commission's in-depth look at the report found Manitoba's teachers are given little guidance on educating students about gender diversity, sexual orientation — and there's no curriculum addressing those topics.

CBC News says the report also found:

  • There is no clear definition of "diversity" in the school curriculum.
  • The lack of definition means teachers could still meet the curriculum requirements without providing content that includes diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or family structures.
  • LGBTQ individuals are further stigmatized because "conventional wisdom" is to avoid talking about sexuality or "queer sexuality" in schools.
  • Specific references to sexuality, gender and family diversity are limited to elective classes in the senior years.

The parents were represented by Allison Fenske of the Public Interest Law Centre. She said the ruling by Kroft sends a message to the commissioners.

"This is an important reminder to the commission that they need to do a better job of explaining their reasons," said Allisno Fenske, a Public Interest Law Centre lawyer who is representing the parents.

"And making sure that their reasons for the decisions they make are grounded in the evidence before them."

Fenske said now the commissioners will reconsider the original complaint and the investigative report. They can stick to their original decision or choose to send it to a public hearing where an adjudicator decides if it is dismissed or if there will be a change.

(Image Credit: Luciana Photography)