Book ban talk hits Brandon School Division

·4 min read

Talk of banning books is once again making headlines in Manitoba, after a Brandon woman demanded that the Brandon School Division (BSD) remove some books from school shelves that touch on LGBTQ issues, and issues of gender and sexual identity.

During a BSD trustee meeting on Monday, Brandon resident Lorraine Hackenschmidt brought her concerns about what she called the “LGBTQ ideology,” while also claiming some books on shelves in the division’s schools could lead to “sexual grooming and pedophilia.”

“I am a very concerned person who has done research on the subject of the LGBTQ ideology,” Hackenshmidt said at the meeting on Monday. “We must protect our children from sexual grooming and pedophilia. The sexualization agenda is robbing children of their innocence.”

During her presentation, Hackenshmidt, who said she is a former school trustee, mother, and grandmother, asked trustees to make several moves, including the removal of several books, but also for the creation of a committee that would decide which books are appropriate for school shelves.

She also made comments about books that touch on issues of gender identity.

“I just ask that you would remove any books that cause our kids to question whether they are in the wrong body,” Hackenshmidt said. “They are certainly not in the wrong body. They are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Concerns about books available to children have also been an issue in the city of Winkler recently, as during a council meeting last month, a delegation asked Winkler city council to stop funding the South Central Regional Library until certain books that touch on issues of sexuality and LGBTQ issues are removed from any areas of the library where they can be viewed or borrowed by children.

The events in Brandon on Monday got the attention of many, including Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont, and he referred to some who would like to see books banned and censored in Manitoba as “extremists.”

“You don't get converted to being 2SLGBTQ by reading a book,” Lamont said while he spoke in the Manitoba Legislature on Tuesday. “I want my children to be safe, and this includes being safe from extremists who want to take away our freedom of choice and freedom to read.”

The comments made on Monday also drew sharp condemnation from the Brandon Pride organization, which released a scathing statement following Monday’s meeting, and said they are now worried about how those in the LGBTQ community might be feeling and reacting to what happened on Monday.

“The crude and false impression presented last night that books containing queer and transgender content are promoting pedophilia or a harmful ideology is sad, frustrating and very alarming,” the statement reads. “Much of the language used during this presentation was the same hateful rhetoric we have been hearing in the U.S.A., in States that are passing laws to limit and ban gender-affirming care.

“Allies check in with your friends and family, the situation can be difficult to navigate, and knowing that you are there for them is so important.”

Those on both sides of the issue could be present at the next BSD trustee meeting scheduled for May 24, as Hackenshmidt’s comment drew praise from BSD trustee Breeanna Sieklicki on Monday, and she encouraged Hackenschmidt and others with similar concerns to be present at the next BSD meeting.

Brandon Pride are asking people to show up to the next BSD meeting to “show that hateful and ignorant comments and banning books is not tolerated.”

A BSD spokesperson confirmed in a statement that trustees are planning to discuss the issue at their next meeting, and are encouraging members of the public to attend the meeting or offer written correspondence.

“The Board of Trustees will discuss and provide a response to this presentation during the “Business Arising” portion of the agenda at the next board meeting on May 23, 2023,” the statement reads.

“Any individual wishing to speak as a delegation is required to provide their name and address as well as the name of the group they represent.”

The school division warned that individual trustees are limited in how much power they have to restrict educational materials in schools and classrooms.

“While individual trustees have a voice and a vote at the board table, the ultimate authority for governance lies with the board as a corporate body, not with individual trustees.”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun