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Burnaby teacher receives death threat

A Burnaby teacher has received a death threat in a letter calling for the withdrawal of the school district's anti-homophobia policy.

The letter was sent to the teacher's workplace last June just as the Burnaby school board was about to vote on Policy 5.45 amid much protest from Parents Voice, a group that formed to oppose the policy, said James Sanyshyn, vice-president of the Burnaby Teachers' Association.

The typed letter, decorated with hand-drawings of knives dripping with blood, reads: "Must immediately withdraw POLICY 5.45! Adhere to the basic social principles! You have no right to do so! You want to destroy our children! You are our enemy! You will be shot!"

Sanyshyn said the threat was reported to Burnaby RCMP. The same letter was also sent to another Burnaby school official, but he did not know if that was forwarded to police.

Since the letter was sent, Parents' Voice formed a political party and is running five candidates for school board. Sanyshyn said he raised the issue of the letter at a forum for school board candidates Tuesday at the offices of the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion.

"I thought it was appropriate to raise this issue at this time because we're in a political campaign and I think the citizens of Burnaby need to understand that this political party was formed solely in opposition to a policy that was designed to protect children," Sanyshyn said, "and that this kind of hate mail came out of the very, very vicious debate that went on about the policy.

"I'm not suggesting that it was sent by Parents' Voice but obviously somebody who was stirred up by the debate has created this and you have to wonder about a party that engenders that kind of response from people."

Sanyshyn declined to provide information that might identify the recipient out of concern for the person's safety and privacy.

"It's a disturbing act, it's a cowardly act and it's meant to put a chill on any sort of discussion around this very important issue of homophobic bullying and fortunately in the case of the teacher who received it, that individual is not going to decrease their activities. They're still going to maintain the work that they do."

By Thursday, Burnaby Parents' Voice was offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the identification of those responsible for the letter.

Parents' Voice candidate Homara Ahmad said she doesn't believe that anyone involved with the party had anything to do with the letter.

"We're denouncing all forms of hate and threats and we're asking people to join together and stop all these threats and hatred because nobody should have to go through this," she said.

"We're being accused of something we haven't done and we want to know who the perpetrator is and no one should have to feel threatened, that's just not who we are."

Burnaby RCMP Corp. Brenda Gresiuk confirmed that they are investigating the complaint. There are no suspects and it is still being actively investigated.

"We take threats very seriously and we're doing everything we can to exhaust the investigation with hopes of identifying the author," Gresiuk said.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Burnaby RCMP or Crime Stoppers.

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

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