In Chilliwack, religion in the community and for the school board are factors for consideration in the election cycles. Wits current setup is Board Chair Willow Reichelt, Board Vice-Chair Jared Mumford, Trustee David Swankey, Trustee Heather Maahs, Trustee Darrell Furgason, and Trustee Barry Neufeld, where its former Board Chair is Dan Coulter.
The commentary in some of the news notes a fight between only two sides in spite of four candidates in the running. Apparently, these are in a sort of split around Neufeld. In the past, Neufeld’s remarks have been seen as offensive to a wide range of groups, including the board’s Minister Rob Fleming requesting a resignation by Neufeld.
There is a review ongoing by the province of the board for making the school system an inclusive and welcoming space.
On the split, candidate Brian VanGarderen stated, “Rather than who’s going to be best in the position, it’s one side versus the other. I’m well aware of that.”
VanGardaren is a teacher in Abbotsford who lives in Chilliwack. The controversial Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum has been an issue in different places throughout the province. For SOGI and Chilliwack, this is an issue here, too.
Candidate Richard Procee argues the SOGI curriculum should be re-evaluated. Another candidate, Adam Suleman, stated that the views of the board do not represent the perspective of the community at large, or Chilliwack.
Suleman is a business analyst and the Treasurer of the SFU Conservatives club. He doesn’t think the board should legislate on religious beliefs because he believes the representation of conservativism of the board is representing religious forms of conservativism. He doesn’t believe in that at all.
“I want to see change in our school district. It’s much needed, and I think a lot of people want to see new faces on this school board. I come from a place of respect for science and respect for people of religious faith. I think they are not mutually exclusive,” Suleman said.
The fourth candidate is Carin Bondar who is a professor at the University of the Fraser Valley and has presented on science in the media for about a decade.
She said, “I take science and make it palatable to all kinds of audiences… I think that my skills of drawing together ideas and presenting them in ways that are constructive, I think those are really good skills for me to use.”
Apparently, there was a small controversy over using the music video of “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus to promote the teaching and evolution. This blew up into attacks online and billboards. School Trustee Darrell Furgason called the video “soft porn” and then “mocking the creation beliefs of the Christian community,” which is to state the ignorance proclaimed as fact by Furgason’s brand of Christianity.
Bondar stated, “I think that sets such a shameful example, really and truly, let’s stop that… We are growing rapidly out here, and I don’t think that those dismissive views really represent a large portion of our population at all. We’ve very open and diverse.”
With files from Julie Landry.