It wasn’t the only bastion of intolerance in the city, but it was a good place to draw the line. Everywhere else in BC, Social Justice 12 was just another elective class for high school seniors. Students would learn how to analyze issues of intolerance in their world, as well as some strategies to combat that intolerance. The Abbotsford school board, however, voted to postpone the course and censor certain sections that dealt with homosexual rights. The irony was not lost on the 96 students who had already signed up for the course.
Over 300 people gathered in the rain at the University of the Fraser Valley last Saturday in response to the School Board’s decision. Some were indeed homosexuals, some of them were families, some of them were fellow students, and others were just tired of seeing this kind of thing happen in their town. Religion is kind of a big deal in Abbotsford. There’s practically a church on every corner, and the local editorial page usually has a letter every week advertising the book of Leviticus. There are people with the same approach to faith who make no qualms about injecting themselves into the local political process, hoping to turn this town into an idyllic version of something it was when there were 75,000 less people and it didn’t take up 5 highway exits. Intelligent people see something like this and they get scared. Nothing can wash away scruples like the belief that God is on your side, never mind that the same God has been known to have it out for those who practice religion without scruples, and never mind that the United Church flew a banner at the rally saying “We are all God’s Children”. Indeed, the people who supported the school board’s decision would see a rally like this as a form of persecution, further evidence they need to keep “people like that” out of the public sphere. That’s okay. This rally wasn’t for them, anyway. It’s for those who value tolerance and freedom of speech, yet are afraid to speak out themselves. It’s for the thousands who make their home in this town, yet feel shut out by the rhetoric they hear. This rally stands to prove that it’s not religious fervor that drives this town, it’s passion for our beliefs. Anywhere else in Canada, having passion is only a human right. Around here, it’s your duty as a citizen.