Surrey Book Banning Case

16 February 2003
February 16, 2003

“Tolerance is always age-appropriate,” Supreme Court rules. Egale Canada delighted at victory for diverse families in the classroom

Egale Canada reacted with delight at the release of the Supreme Court decision in the Surrey Book Banning case. By a 7-2 majority, Canada’s highest court unequivocally rejected the Surrey School Board’s attempt to ban from the classroom three books depicting same-sex families: Belinda’s Bouquet, Asha’s Mums, and One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dads, Blue Dads. The Court referred the question of whether the books should be approved for use in the classroom back to the Board to be determined according to “the broad principles of tolerance and non-sectarianism underlying the School Act.”

“The court today has affirmed the right of children in same-sex parented families to see themselves and their families reflected in the school curriculum,” said John Fisher, Egale Canada’s Executive Director. “This is an unequivocal victory not only for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Canadians and their families, but for all Canadians, in that it affirms the right of children to a bias-free curriculum that teaches the values of equality, tolerance and respect for diversity that we as a society hold so dear. The Supreme Court sent the clear message to educators across the nation that families come in many diverse forms, and that all are equally entitled to be treated with respect. Ultimately, the Court has recognized that children benefit from learning respect for those who are different. In the words of the Chief Justice, “tolerance is always age-appropriate.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice McLachlin, writing for the majority, addressed the core argument of the Surrey School Board. “It is suggested that, while the message of the books may be unobjectionable, the books will lead children to ask questions of their parents that may be inappropriate for the K-1 level and difficult for parents to answer. Yet on the record before us, it is hard to see how the materials will raise questions which would not in any event be raised by the acknowledged existence of same-sex parented families in the K-1 parent population, or in the broader world in which these children live. The only additional message of the materials appears to be the message of tolerance. Tolerance is always age-appropriate” (para 69).

For further info, contact:
John Fisher, Executive Director, Egale: 613-230-1043 (w); cell: 613-291-5187
Cynthia Petersen, Co-Counsel for Egale: 416-979-6440
Ken Smith, Co-Counsel for Egale: 604-683-4176
James Chamberlain, Appellant: 604-596-1537 (school); 604-873-2303 (home)
Nancy Knickerbocker, BC Teachers’ Federation: 604-871-1881

about NAWL
The National Association of Women and the Law is a not-for-profit feminist organization that promotes the equality rights of women through legal education, research and law reform advocacy.
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