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Surrey city Coun. Laurie Guerra resigns as director of AutismBC

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Autism BC director resigns under pressure
WATCH: One of the directors of Autism BC has resigned after a controversy over a meeting she attended after being elected to Surrey city council. Catherine Urquhart reports – Nov 13, 2018

Surrey city Coun. Laurie Guerra has resigned from her position as director of AutismBC.

This follows calls for her to step down after a petition was launched by Mirella Russell, the mother of a 13-year-old boy with autism.

This followed news that Guerra and another newly-elected Coun. Steven Pettigrew both spoke at a post-election party attended by anti-SOGI 123 groups.

SOGI 123 is a resource package designed to help teachers and school administrators reduce discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in their curriculum.

READ MORE: AutismBC director draws fire for reported appearance at anti-SOGI event

In a statement, AutismBC said over the past few days there have been some concerns and negative perspectives about the organization expressed by members and others in the community and they are “deeply concerned” about the stress the situation has caused.

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“Our guiding light is to be a leader in the autism community, providing education, training, information and support for families,” the statement reads. “We want to ensure that our strong commitment to inclusion of all people is clear.  We want to preserve the trust of the community, and we will fortify our endeavour to be transparent and accountable to all members of the community.”

WATCH: Growing calls for AutismBC director to step down

Click to play video: 'Growing calls for Autism BC director to step down'
Growing calls for Autism BC director to step down

Speaking to CKNW on Tuesday, Guerra said she made the decision to step down from AutismBC “quite a while ago.”

“I just felt like I wanted to stay on the board at the last AGM, just to give advice and not leave the new president high and dry,” she said, adding there has been so much social media frenzy around this story since the weekend and people were negatively attacking AutismBC.

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“I thought to myself, I was going to resign anyway and the president, who’s Gary Robins, he said ‘You know, it’s fine, we’ve got this if you want to let it go,’ and they can cover me and I’ll still be in an advisory position if they need it,” Guerra said.

She added she was not asked to step down.

READ MORE: ‘No room for discrimination’ says Education Minister, school groups, amid dueling SOGI protests

Speaking about the post-election party she attended, she says she was invited to attend a private, ticketed event that was called Freedom and Faith.

“It was put on by groups that wanted to honour those that had run in the recent municipal elections, school board and city councillors. There was a huge group of people, they were from all over the Lower Mainland and that was basically it,” Guerra said.

She said it was not an anti-SOGI gathering.

“It was to do with faith-based communities. They didn’t call it a Christian [event] but the bulk of the people were Christian.” She said people who are part of other religions were also present.

Guerra adds some people did talk about how they were not in favour of the SOGI 123 resource during their speeches but not everyone mentioned the curriculum.

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She said she is not in favour of SOGI herself.

“Absolutely, I’m opposed to it. And I’m opposed to it for two different reasons. One of them mainly is, because I don’t see any evidence behind the teaching component of the resource,” Guerra said. “I’m familiar with it and I’ve seen it and I just don’t agree with it.”

“And the other reason is they just don’t have enough parents’ involvement in it. They don’t have a parent being able to make a decision on whether or not they want that resource even taught to their children.”

“I’m really not anti-anything. I’m not anti-SOGI. I’m the most inclusive person that I know. I have a son with autism. The last thing that I want is to see anybody, any child, any person, any human being bullied or not feel good about who they are.”

“What I’ve been accused of, and how horrible I am and how anti-SOGI I am is just not true.”

On Sunday, Russell said she was hurt when she found out Guerra spoke at the event.

“My heart hurt because as a parent of a child who has special needs, who I always fight for his inclusion, I felt that the organization that represents kids on the spectrum all of a sudden had a representative who spoke of hatred, and to me that felt like a betrayal,” she said.

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WATCH: (Aired Oct. 15, 2018) Thousands of B.C. children waiting for autism assessment

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Thousands of B.C. children waiting for autism assessment

Previously, Guerra referred questions on the matter to AutismBC, saying she is “extremely busy doing the work the residents of Surrey elected me to do.”

However, Guerra also appeared to address the controversy on her Facebook page, writing, “After only three days in office I finally get what the term ‘fake news’ means.”

— With files from Grace Ke

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