BCCLA applauds the Supreme Court decision to overturn the Surrey book ban

The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) is expressing its satisfaction with the Supreme Court’s decision earlier today to overturn a ban on three elementary school books imposed by the Surrey School Board. The BCCLA intervened before the Court to argue that the decision by the School Board’s decision did not accord with the B.C. School Act which forbids the teaching of religious dogma.

“We are delighted with the decision,” said BCCLA President John Dixon. “The Court has made it clear that the School Act does not exclude the religious convictions and beliefs of parents from the process of deciding what goes in school libraries. But when such beliefs conflict with the requirements of tolerance and strictly secular curriculum – which are key elements of the Act – tolerance must come first.”

The case involved a decision by the Surrey School Board to remove books for elementary school children because some parents raised objections based on these books expressing views on homosexuality that run contrary to their religious beliefs.

The three books at issue in the case are Asha’s Mums, Belinda’s Bouquet, and One Dad, Two Dads and Brown Dads, Blue Dads.

The BCCLA intervened to oppose the ban because it was contrary to section 76(1) of the School Act of BC, which provides that all schools must be “conducted on strictly secular and non-sectarian principles”, and section 76(2) stipulates that ” the highest moral values must be inculcated but no religious dogma or creed is to be taught…”.

  • The Supreme Court stated that the Surrey School Board’s decision was unreasonable on three grounds The Board violated the principles of secularism and tolerance in section 76 of the School Act
  • The Board failed to follow its own regulation requiring it to consider the relevance of the materials to curriculum objectives and the needs of children of same-sex parented families, and
  • The Board failed to consider the curriculum’s goal that children at the K-1 level be able to discussion their family models and that all children be made aware of the diversity of family models in our society.

The BCCLA was represented pro bono by Christopher Sanderson, Q.C. of Lawson Lundell. In his analysis of the decision, Sanderson said. “I agree with the court’s analysis. The school board’s decision was clearly unreasonable, without legal authority and in violation of its governing statute. These violations were so clear and blatant the Court didn’t have to consider possible violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”