District denies request

The North Okanagan-Shuswap School District has balked at allowing a group to use its property for a pro-life display

Tracy Hughes

Black Press

The North Okanagan-Shuswap School District has balked at allowing a group to use its property for a pro-life display.

The Shuswap Pro-Life Society requested the use of school district property near Salmon Arm’s Centenoka Park Mall for a one-day display of 10,000 little pink and blue flags, each representing 10 babies lost to abortion every year in Canada.

The majority of trustees were of the opinion that the topic was too controversial and permitting the display may imply the school district was taking a position on the abortion issue.

“I think we need to be Switzerland and stay neutral,” said Armstrong trustee Kelly Rowe, who said it was not the place for the school district to allow its property to be used for political or religious public displays.

Enderby’s Chris Coers, however, said she had no problem with sharing the space, noting the school district does share space with Roots and Blues Festival.

It was pointed out that while the district does lease space to religious or political groups, those indoor spaces are for those who choose to attend, which differs from an outdoor display designed to attract the attention of the general public.

Jenn Wilchuk, Carlin trustee, disagreed, noting an issue like abortion is not the same as a music festival.

“It would look like we are taking a position, because it is our property.”

She also wondered what other groups might then make a similar request.

Larissa Lutjen, North Shuswap trustee, pointed out that abortion is legal in Canada and some school district students may have opted for abortions.

“Something like that could traumatize students and perhaps be thought of as shaming.”

The board opted to instruct administration to deny the request and is referring the issue to a committee, with the view to developing a policy to deal with requests.