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Peter and Murray Corren

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Peter Corren (né Cook) and Murray Corren (né Warren) — Corren is a combination of their former names — are LGBT-rights activists from Vancouver, British Columbia whose complaint before the BC Human Rights Tribunal led to an agreement by which the provincial Ministry of Education will consult them on how gays are presented in the school curriculum.

BackgroundEdit

The Correns, a same-sex couple with one adopted son, are long-time activists for gay rights who have been involved in several high profile cases. They were among the first gay couples to foster and adopt children in Canada. In the late 1990s, Murray Warren, a Coquitlam teacher, was one of the petitioners in Chamberlain v. Surrey School District, a case in which the Surrey school board banned several children's books featuring same-sex parents.[1] They were also among the petitioners in an early same-sex marriage case[2] that lifted the ban on same-sex marriage in British Columbia.[3] They were one of the first same sex couples to marry in Canada.[4]

Human rights complaintEdit

In 1997, Cook and Warren complained to the BC Human Rights Tribunal that public schools in British Columbia discriminated against gays by failing to include information about them in curricula, and that the lack of such representation amounted to systemic discrimination. The Tribunal accepted their case, but as the hearing approached in 2006, the provincial government negotiated a settlement with the Correns by which the province committed itself to review the inclusivity of school curricula and would introduce a new elective course on social justice that would include sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and gender issues. The agreement stipulated that the Correns would be consulted about the section of the new course on sexual orientation and more broadly about the presentation of gays in the broader school curriculum. It also stipulates that the government must solicit feedback directly from organization or groups, identified by the Correns, "with expertise in sexual orientation, homophobia, and other issues of inclusion and diversity in the curriculum". One controversial feature of the agreement is that the provision of "Alternative Delivery", which allows parents to opt their children out of parts of the curriculum, will be limited to specific courses. This means that students will be unable to avoid LGBT topics in all classes.

ReactionsEdit

As in many cases involving the education system and LGBT issues, the potential for conflict between the human rights of LGBT people and the religious freedom rights of parents, both of which are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, has created significant controversy.

Both religious media and mainstream newspaper editorials (most notably the National Post) have raised concerns about appointing the activists to revise the curricula. The Canadian Alliance for Social Justice and Family Values Association organized a petition with 15,000 signatures in August 2006 stating that the provincial government is giving the Correns an "unreasonable overwhelming say" in modifying curricula, and asks that parents, students and other organizations also have an input into any changes.

The British Columbia School Act, which governs the public school system in the province, states that public schools "must be conducted on entirely secular and non-sectarian grounds". While faith-based schools nominally have the freedom to teach according to their own religious beliefs, they are required by law to teach the same curriculum as the public system, and thus would be affected by any substantial curriculum changes resulting from the Corren agreement. To date, the government has not stated whether religious schools will be required to teach a curriculum if it conflicts with religious beliefs. Groups such as the British Columbia Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils are consequently lobbying the government to protect religious beliefs with respect to any changes.

Under the agreement, the Correns are allowed to select any curriculum for any grade, which "they consider should be given priority in light of sexual orientation issues." Writing in the B.C. Catholic, Vancouver Archbishop Raymond Roussin, SM, said of the deal: "This would be clearly contrary to the fundamental and non-negotiable right of parents to raise their family and educate their children. The right of parents to determine how their children receive instruction on matters of faith and morals must be the primary consideration" (Sept. 4, 2006). His comments were immediately condemned by Peter Corren as a "homophobic diatribe against Canadian society" (CCRL Press Release, Sept. 7, 2006).

See alsoEdit

Links and BibliographyEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Mark Hume and Janice Tibbetts, "Ban on books unreasonable, court rules: 'Public schools must mirror diversity of community': Between the covers", National Post 21 December 2002, A08; Paula Brook, "War over words: it's a battle over three slim storybooks. But it has sparked a bitter values clash in Surrey, BC," Chatelaine v.71(12), December, 1998, pp. 46-52; Nancy Knickerbocker, "Supreme Court rules against book bank ", Teacher Newsmagazine 15.3 (Jan./Feb. 2003).
  2. "Gays challenge the marriage law", Toronto Star July 24, 2001, p. A06; cf. http://www.egale.ca/index.asp?lang=E&menu=1&item=448#para008
  3. Andrew Chung, "B.C. appeal court lifts ban on gay unions", Toronto Star May 2, 2003, A06.
  4. Sue Bailey, "Same-sex marriage divides Canadians; there are equally passionate views of both sides," London Free Press, May 19, 2003, p. C12

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