Story ARC: The money behind a plot to push gender ideology into Canadian classrooms
by Eva Kurilova
In the 2019 TEACH Magazine Special Issue: Out of the Closet and into the Classroom, an article titled "SOGI: Getting the Terminology Right" informs readers that experts say teachers must be open to using terms like gender-fluid, two-spirit, trans, and cisgender in the classroom.
Just who are the experts that think the classroom is the place to introduce these ideas to children? They aren't educators, but rather activists from a private, Vancouver-based foundation called the ARC Foundation, whose main project is to implement sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) education throughout the country.
The ARC Foundation is partly funded by private interests and partly by taxpayer dollars. CRA records indicate that the foundation reported over $600,000 in private donations and just over $350,000 from other registered charities from 2016 to 2020, as well as more than one million dollars in provincial funding from 2017 to 2020. In 2020 alone, the ARC Foundation reported total revenue of $765,719.
The ARC Foundation's sole program, SOGI 1 2 3, has made its way into all 60 BC school districts and six school districts in Alberta. The program is well on its way to expanding into all of Alberta, and the foundation has its sights set on the rest of Canada as well.
One wonders how a private organization came to build the relationships necessary to give it a direct say in what children learn at school. Tracing the history of the foundation and its major activities can help shed some light on how it got to where it is today.
According to the previously mentioned TEACH Magazine article, "ARC'' stands for Awareness, Respect, and Capacity—not to be confused with ARC (Allied Rainbow Communities) International, a foundation that is also pushing gender ideology in Canada.
The ARC Foundation was registered in 2008 with Robert Quartermain, Wayne Hartrick, and Mark Prior as trustees. The foundation's focus was originally much broader and included those who are marginalized by sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, or financial status. Today, the focus is exclusively on SOGI in schools.
It is also worth highlighting that all three of the original trustees come from a business rather than an educational background, making the foundation's shift to schools a surprising one.
Robert Quartermain has a long history in the mining industry, serving as president and chief executive officer of Silver Standard Resource Inc. from 1985 to 2010 and executive chairman of Pretium Resources Inc., which he founded in 2010.
According to Elections BC records, Quartermain has made numerous donations to the BC Liberal Party. From 2005 to 2017, while the party was in power under the Campbell (2001–2011) and then the Clark (2011–2017) governments, his donations totalled $217,695.
Another ARC Foundation founding member, Wayne Hartrick, is the founding President and current board member of the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation. A registered charity, the Canadian Men's Health Foundation aims to help men lead healthier lives. It lists the Government of British Columbia as one of its partners.
Hartrick is also involved in politics and has served as a member of the Vancouver City Planning Commission. Notably, Hartrick and Quartermain were on the invitation list for the announcement of the next Executive Council of B.C. in 2013.
The final founding member, Mark Prior, currently lives in Palm Springs, California and is an entrepreneur with a history in software development. He also has more than 25 years of experience in the film industry and currently serves on the Palm Springs Art Museum board of directors.
Prior was born in Toronto and worked as a media executive in Toronto until 2005. He took on another executive role at a media company in Vancouver in 2005 and, by 2009, he was living and working in the United States.
The ARC Foundation was relatively inactive for several years after registration. One of their first notable activities was being named as an Out in Schools Principal Partner for the 2012-2013 year, which means they financially contributed more than $10,000 to the program.
Out In Schools bills itself as an education program that brings "age-appropriate queer cinema" to classrooms in BC. It is a project of Out On Screen, an organization that also puts on the annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival.
Some have criticized the Out In Schools program as merely an advertising campaign for the festival. Nevertheless, in 2011, Out In Schools was listed by the charity Tides Canada (now known as MakeWay) as one of the top 10 organizations making the world a better place.
Having attached itself to a prominent, praised, and school-based LGBTQ+ cause, the ARC Foundation's next move was even bigger. It partnered with Delta School District for the 2015-2016 school year to create the SOGI program, which provides coaching, support, and resources to educators for making schools more "inclusive" of sexual and gender diversity.
Leaders & Learners (the official magazine of the Canadian Association of School System Administrators) (page 14) writes that:
Delta School District already had a committee of passionate educators keen to be involved, and the district lead coordinator, a local elementary principal, recruited volunteers at every school site—SOGI School Leads—who began building a professional network to share promising practices and create resources. The model proved highly successful and became the blueprint for the structure that has now grown throughout B.C.
The partnership involved funding to the district from the ARC Foundation and the Ministry of Education for the SOGI coordinator role, which was filled by Matt Carruthers. Carruthers is a long-time Delta School District elementary principal who went on to take the role of BC SOGI Education lead for the 2017-2018 school year, despite being “anxious about becoming known as the ‘gay’ educator”.
Though in partnership with the government, the ARC Foundation was still, at this time, completely privately funded. CRA records from 2016 show that their total reported revenue of $225,063 that year came only from private donations and donations from other charities. Canadian law doesn't require charities to publicly disclose the source of their donations.
Much of the ARC Foundation's early growth was aided by Brad Beattie, founder and CEO of POP, an agency designed to create "collaboration solutions for social impact." Beattie was contracted to serve as executive director of the ARC Foundation from 2015 to 2020. The POP website boasts that he:
amplified grassroots voices and facilitated partnerships that quickly became SOGI 1 2 3—a collaborative educational initiative that, in less than three years, scaled from its pilot to include all 60 school districts, first nation schools and independent schools in British Columbia, while beginning to expand nationally.
The SOGI 1 2 3 program is pushed as an anti-bullying program, but what it actually does is teach kids pseudoscientific ideas about sex and gender. Its core tenet, displayed at the very top of the sogieducation.org landing page, is that: Everyone has a sexual orientation and gender identity, including children. However, there is zero scientific evidence or basis for the idea of gender identity. In fact, most children grow out of gender dysphoria by adulthood.
Despite this, SOGI-inclusive education takes an "affirmative" approach to gender identity, meaning that when children vocalize a transgender identity for any reason, the school is to use their chosen name and pronouns and treat the child as the opposite sex. This includes giving the child access to opposite-sex facilities and sports. SOGI guidelines also instruct educators not to disclose any of this to parents without the child's explicit permission.
Even though the SOGI program has such clear and concerning problems, it was expanded into nine more school districts by the end of June 2016. Royal Bank of Canada donated $60,000 via the ARC Foundation to be put towards educating staff and buying books for elementary schools.
RBC has a long history of supporting LGBT+ causes and initiatives. In particular, the bank is currently a sponsor of OK2BME, an Ontario-based counselling project for young adults. The project offers services like Gender Journeys, described as:
a group for gender diverse youth ages 12-18 who are interested in better understanding their gender or gender transition.
While the ARC Foundation was running its partner project with the help of these RBC funds, another key partnership was in the works. On May 15, 2016, the University of British Columbia announced a "major new social justice initiative" called Teacher Education for All! and funded by a $125,000 gift from the ARC Foundation. The stated aim of the project was to:
create and provide an inclusive culture, work place, and learning environment with a particular focus on intersectional approaches to thinking about sexual and gender diversity in public educational settings and pedagogical approaches to recognize, and intervene to transform, the impacts of systemic discrimination.
The Teacher Education for All! project ran until 2018. During this time, it worked to indoctrinate teacher candidates into the language and ideas of the SOGI program so that they could bring these ideas into their future classrooms.
An article published in the Canadian Journal of Education in 2019 described how the project accomplished this by organizing a speaker series and in-class lectures, creating a student SOGI alliance, and providing professional learning workshops for education faculty and staff.
Thanks to all of these new connections and partnerships, the ARC Foundation was poised to take an even bigger step, and the opportunity soon came. On July 25, 2016, Christy Clark’s BC Liberal government passed Bill 27, which changed the BC Human Rights Code by adding "gender identity or expression" as prohibited grounds for discrimination.
On the day the bill passed, Quartermain was present in the gallery. He was personally introduced by Liberal MLA Bill Bennet (Minister of Energy and Mines), as a friend. He was also welcomed by Liberal MLA Doug Donaldson (Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development).
Bill 27 became the catalyst for the ARC Foundation to expand its SOGI program to the rest of the province. On September 8, 2016, BC Education Minister Mike Bernier announced that all BC schools had to bring their policies and codes of conduct in line with the change to the Human Rights Code. This meant that all anti-bullying policies had to explicitly reference sexual orientation and gender identity.
Schools were given until the end of December 2016 to make the required changes. The Minister of Education also announced that the ARC Foundation would be funding a Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Education advisor position to "support" schools in developing their policies.
The partnership between the Ministry of Education and the ARC Foundation was formalized through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) which did not yet require any financial commitments between the two parties. The ARC Foundation was to provide their expertise while the Ministry was to provide communication and coordination assistance with schools.
Following these big announcements, on October 19, 2016, the ARC Foundation held its first-ever SOGI summit. The summit included 140 educators from the program's nine pilot school districts. Leaders & Learners Magazine described the festivities:
The day began with a historic joint welcome from the Ministry of Education and the BC Teachers’ Federation, delivering a strong unified message of support, highlighted by a moving speech by a celebrated transgender youth who, at the time, was only 13 years old.
That same day, the foundation announced the official launch of its SOGI 1 2 3 program. It also launched the program's website, sogieducation.org, which provides teachers with ready-made lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations, graphics, videos, and other resources to incorporate into the curriculum.
In May 2017, the Ministry of Education opted to renew the MOU with the ARC Foundation. The terms of the renewal involved a $100,000 commitment from the Ministry for creating a provincial SOGI Education Lead position, as well as another $50,000 to help develop SOGI educational videos and modules for teachers, school staff, parents, and community partners.
Later in 2017, the ARC Foundation received another $200,000 donation from RBC to promote SOGI initiatives. Local parents caught wind of the bank's financial support and created a Change.org petition to "Stop RBC from supporting radical sex education in schools."
Interestingly, in 2018, the ARC Foundation added former Managing Director and Regional Head, BC, for RBC Capital Markets Jill Gardiner as a trustee. Gardiner was later appointed as Chair of the Board and served in the position until 2021. She currently serves as a board advisor.
In 2019, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) also hopped on board the SOGI train. The union signed a collaborative agreement with BC Education Minister Rob Fleming to form a Provincial K-12 SOGI Collaborative with a purpose to:
identify, support, and provide advice on a variety of projects, support the development of new SOGI resources, offer professional development and training opportunities, and share information on best practices between schools and districts for the benefit of all BC students.
As SOGI 1 2 3 was adapted throughout BC schools, the ARC Foundation continued to run SOGI Summits to further the SOGI agenda. At the 2019 SOGI Summit, the B.C. government announced a $350,000 funding boost towards training, resources, and supports for schools.
In addition to public funds, the foundation continued to receive private donations. It was the recipient of a donation from the philanthropic organization 100 Gay Men for a Cause YVR in both 2019 and 2020. TD Bank Group was also thanked as a "returning sponsor" at the 2020 SOGI Educators Summit.
By this time, the ARC Foundation and SOGI 1 2 3 had already moved into Alberta, where their funding has come mostly from the private sphere (aside from a $50,000 donation from the Alberta Human Rights Commission).
The foundation has also received a total of $334,600 from the Stollery Charitable Foundation and $38,000 from the Edmonton Community Foundation, which has close ties to the Stollery family, for the implementation of SOGI 1 2 3. The Stollery family is best known for the Stollery Children's Hospital, which has its own youth transgender clinic.
By creating these key relationships with governments, educational institutions, private businesses, and other charities throughout BC and Alberta, the ARC Foundation has successfully introduced gender ideology into these provinces' schools over the last several years. Amazingly, they have done this without much public scrutiny or even knowledge of their activities, which affect every single child attending a school that has implemented the SOGI 1 2 3 program.
Many people are not aware of the kind of school materials that their tax dollars, their union dues, their charitable donations, and even their banking fees are funding. Parents and any concerned citizens should be asking why a private activist organization with an ideological agenda has been allowed to dictate what is taught to children in schools around the topics of sexuality and gender.