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Private Langley university rejects LGBTQ+ event request

Support group for Trinity Western University students and alumni held event on campus in past
One TWU will host its storytelling evening in Fort Langley, instead of at Trinity Western University as in past years. (One TWU Facebook)

An independent support group for LGBTQIA2S+ people at Trinity Western University (TWU) can’t hold its storytelling event on campus this year, despite having held it there multiple times in the past.

One TWU offers support to the LGBTQ+ community on campus, and advocates for inclusion. One way is through If You Only Knew…, its storytelling event scheduled for March 3.

As with past years, the group went through the protocols in its request for space, but the request was turned down by the private Christian university. The group was also told it could not put up posters about its support services and the event.

“We’re sharing our stories which I think should be a non-controversial thing,” said One TWU co-leader Carter Sawatzky.

The event for college-age people and older from the TWU community as well as the broader community has different speakers share their lived experiences.

“It’s not a contradiction. You can be queer and Christian,” Sawatzky said.

The decision goes against the inclusivity claimed by the school, Sawatzky added.

The English student pointed out that they enjoy most of their fellow students and educators, but the administration seems to have become less tolerant in recent years.

Sawatzky said nothing really changed essentially about the event in terms of format, adding that the event is open to people with differing views.

Except for 2020, when COVID restrictions impacted gatherings, One TWU Stories Night has been held on campus to provide accessibility for all who want to attend.

“A lot of people come to TWU and have never heard an LGBTQ story,” Sawatzky said. “They’ve never heard different perspectives around LGBTQ community, around queer people. And so for some people this event on campus is one of the first times that they can hear the lived experience from the words of the people themselves, not from you know, a secondary source of someone saying that they’re going to hell, that God hates them. But that, you know, they have dignity. They have their own lives.”

One TWU posted information about not being allowed to hold the event on campus and received an outpouring of support from alumni and others.

“The TWU staff and administration cannot in good conscience argue that they are ‘equipping students for life’ while exemplifying an attitude of religious leaders who fear losing their power,” wrote Sophia Splane. “Silencing the voices of a small ‘opposition’ in no way equips young adults to live in today’s world.”

Tracey Dahl, a parent of three TWU students and a registered clinical counsellor, is concerned about the impacts of decisions like this.

“Higher education should be a space where all voices are respected, and we make room to hear from one another even if we disagree,” Dahl wrote.

One person called for very specific action to show disagreement with TWU’s decision.

“Advocacy raises awareness, but money talks. If you’re currently a donor to TWU, I implore you to consider withholding donations until the administration takes actionable steps to start treating queer students with the dignity that they deserve,” Jared Barkman wrote.

One TWU sought out another venue to hold the event, finding space at St. George’s Anglican Church in Fort Langley, but tickets were booked so fast that organizers sought a bigger venue and will now hold the event at the Fort Langley Community Hall. Free tickets are available through EventBrite. People need not have connections to TWU to attend. There is also a virtual option through the EventBrite booking. A Zoom link will be sent.

Sawatzky said that having to find an off-campus venue means extra expenses and that some from TWU who may have wanted to attend, can’t if they don’t have transportation.

Trinity Western University was contacted via phone and email Feb. 10 and again Feb. 14 with a request for comment. No reply was received as of noon Thursday, Feb. 16.

One TWU is considered an independent group, despite being comprised entirely of TWU students and alumni, noted Matthew Wigmore, One TWU co-founder. He noted that the school allows other independent groups space on campus.

“We have seen external groups or independent groups (whatever you want to call them) hold events at the university before, including leadership candidates for the Conservative Party (Kellie Leitch) during the 2016-2017 leadership election for the CPC,” Wigmore noted.


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One TWU has posted information on its Facebook page about the university’s decision not to allow the storytelling event on campus.

Heather Colpitts

About the Author: Heather Colpitts

Since starting in the news industry in 1992, my passion for sharing stories has taken me around Western Canada.
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