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Nanaimo students urge school to allow club name 'Queer-Straight Alliance'

Students at Nanaimo Christian School (NCS) are questioning why they’ve been barred from naming a club the Queer-Straight Alliance (QSA).

Grade 12 student Anna Hill said an alternative name, The Rainbow Alliance, was also shot down by higher-ups at the private school.

"I wanted to make a club that was welcoming to anyone, but I wanted it to focus more on this (2SLGBTQ+) community," Anna said Tuesday.

"The name was really important, more of an act of respect for a lot of us."

The school board suggested a different name for the club, which meets weekly at lunch.

"We intentionally chose the name 'Space for Belonging' instead of 'Queer-Straight Alliance' in order to avoid exclusive or polarizing language," said NCS superintendent Mike Suderman in a statement to CTV News.

"We are intentionally choosing language that unifies rather than divides," he said.

Nanaimo Christian School is pictured. (CTV News)


Grade 10 student Maeci Parsonage questions why the school board thinks the term QSA is divisive.

QSAs exist in schools across Canada, providing a safe space for 2SLGBTQ+ students and allies, students say.

"Knowing that there’s a club by that name just shows that there is that acceptance there," Maeci said.

This isn’t about semantics, said Ajay MacLeod, coordinator for Generation Q, a 2SLGBTQ+ youth group in Nanaimo, B.C.

"When we water it down by doing things like calling it the 'Belonging Club,' it invalidates… those identities," MacLeod said.

For many, labels can be empowering, MacLeod said. Anna agreed, stressing the need for schools to use identity-affirming language.

"What I felt [the name change] was, was them once again kind of quieting the queer community in our school," Anna said.


The superintendent said school staff value diversity, which is why NCS has gender-neutral washrooms, a gender-neutral dress code, and inclusion training for staff.

"Our school’s inclusive practices go far beyond the names we choose for clubs," Suderman wrote. "We love and value all students."

Hill and Parsonage said the school can show students that love by allowing them to use the club name of their choice.

Anna’s mother, Rebecca Hill, said until now NCS has been an "amazing" place for her children.

"I recognize it is a contentious topic for the Christian community," Hill said.

"I would like the school to get over whatever political thing is happening so we can serve our students with love and compassion," she said.

She and Maeci’s mother, Juanita Parsonage, said using the students' chosen names for the club would create a sense of belonging.

"This is their lives. This is their mental health," Parsonage said. "When a school is not willing to acknowledge that, take responsibility for that, I think that’s pretty significant."

QCHAT is a peer support line for 2SLGBTQ+ youth in B.C. You can call 1-855-956-1777 or text 250-800-9036. QCHAT also has an extensive list of resources for youth on Vancouver Island. Top Stories

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