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‘It takes a village’: Premier, RCMP, mayor, school speak out on possible hate crime in Kelowna

From Kelowna City Council, to the B.C. Premier, people came together to speak out

The Premier of B.C., the RCMP and city council’s Loyal Woolridge are concerned about the discriminatory and hateful behaviour that targeted a young girl who was competing at an elementary school track meet in Kelowna on June 8.

The incident garnered public attention after the girl’s mother posted on the Kelowna Alert Facebook.

She wrote that her daughter was mis gendered and accosted by a grandfather while competing in shot put.

The mother claims that the man yelled at her daughter, demanding to see a birth certificate and saying that if she was not a boy, then she was definitely trans and should be disqualified from the competition.

“My daughter is a girl, was born female, and uses she/ her pronouns. She has a pixie cut,” said the mother.

Woolridge said that the public needs to start calling behaviour like this out since since it is traumatizing for children.

“We need to start recognizing this as hate speech…This is not a difference of opinion.”

Woolridge explained that having freedom of speech does not mean that a person has a right to spread hate speech.

He said that if a person witnesses bullying or discrimination, they have a responsibility to speak up, or call the police, particularly when it involves children.

Const. Mike Della-Paolera said that the Kelowna detachment has received “a number of messages” regarding the situation, and that an investigative file has been opened.

“We too share everyone’s grave concerns with discriminatory behaviour,” said Della-Paolera.

Woolridge said that the hateful movement targeting the trans community is growing.

“People are being oppressed on purpose.”

The councillor said that the mounting hate against transgender people has led to this instance, where a cis-gendered child was discriminated against for their hair cut.

“It is important to our community to speak out against discriminatory behaviours, and research shows that social support is an important protective factor for those experiencing marginalization, racism, or discrimination. If our community takes action together, this will assist us in the ultimate goal of a diverse, inclusive and safe community for all. Your willingness to take an active role demonstrates your care and responsibility. We understand that this incident, and the ongoing discussion on social media can be difficult,” said Della-Paolera.

Premier David Eby said “let’s keep calling out transphobia when we see it,” in a tweet about the incident.

He said that hate hurts everyone and ” is not acceptable or welcome in British Columbia.”

Woolridge said that the school district is working diligently to address the situation.

Additionally, he said that city council’s new safety plan addresses the need to create safe spaces for marginalized, gender diverse, queer and non-white people.

“If we don’t create safe spaces, it causes trauma and harm for youth in their formative years.”

Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas chimed in on the afternoon of June 13, calling the incident “heartbreaking”.

Kevin Kaardal, Central Okanagan Public Schools superintendent/CEO, said the incident is under an internal school district investigation, wth those involved facing being banned from all future school events.

Kaardal said the incident “as reported to us” saw a person or persons make inappropriate comments during the Grade 4 shot put event, and were aggressive and belligerent to school staff, ultimately disrupting the track meet.

“This is just unacceptable…adults need to govern their behaviour…we expect our students to behave with civility to one another and adults should be no different,” he said.

Kaardal said parents should not even make such damaging comments to other adults while within earshot of any youth.

“Staff at the event responded and intervened at the time, eventually moving the event across the field,” Kaardal said.

“The entire school community that surrounds the student has shown tremendous allyship and concern for their wellbeing following the incident and will continue to check in and ensure supports are available to anyone affected by the incident.”