OUR VIEW: Here’s to rights and freedoms

On Pink Shirt Day, let's ensure we protect all people's rights and freedoms

Today might be a leap day, but what really sets Feb. 29 apart this year is that it marks Pink Shirt Day, a movement born in Canada to put an end to bullying.

It started in a Nova Scotia school, where students sported pink shirts to support a classmate who was picked on. We should point out, though, that bullying doesn’t only happen in schools – it can happen in the workplace, among friends and almost anywhere else people get together in groups. Bullying doesn’t just affect the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and queer community either. It can happen to absolutely anyone.

The effects of bullying are tragic. Too many children in Canada take their own lives each year to escape its harmful effects.

Earlier this week, a group called Culture Guard, which bills itself as a citizens’ advocacy agency, sent out a press release calling for B.C.’s education minister to ban “demeaning” words, such as homophobic and heterosexist, from schools. It says parents and students shouldn’t be labelled as such.

Labels are almost never constructive or accurate, but while freedom of expression is a pillar of the Canadian way of life, groups can take the idea too far. Especially when they, like Culture Guard, follow by spreading untrue messages, such as accusing homosexual practices of being “vectors for diseases.” This is not the case.

Instead, our schools are moving in the right direction. Saanich school district superintendent Keven Elder is working with students to create a formal policy on LGBT rights, acceptance and language. As our students become more accepting of these lifestyles, this trend can take better hold in workplaces and other public arenas.

Here’s to rights and freedoms for all.