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UCP candidate, slammed for comments on pornography in schools, quits

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A candidate for the United Conservative Party in southern Alberta has resigned after claiming in a video that children are being exposed to pornography in schools.

Torry Tanner, who was running in Lethbridge West, made the comments in a 50-second video posted online.

“We, as parents, are in a unique position to protect the innocence of our children yet alarmingly we are seeing increasing instances where kids, even those attending kindergarten, are being exposed to pornographic materials or, worse yet, having teachers help them change their gender identity with absolutely no parental consent or knowledge whatsoever,” Tanner said in the video.

“This needs to be stopped immediately.”

She urged parents to get involved on school boards and on parent councils to keep their children safe.

“As an educator and mother myself, this concerns me greatly because, when it comes down to protecting youth, silence just isn't an option anymore,” she said.

“So, I am asking that you stand with me to take action in protecting our children.”

The video has been slammed by the Opposition NDP and the Alberta Teachers Association as misinformation.

“We have a vetted UCP candidate by the party making comments that were not true, comments that were used to create fear for political gain,” said Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teachers Association.

“I am from Lethbridge, I am from that riding actually. I know that the people who are working in our schools, the teachers, are not doing what she indicated that they were.”

Two local school divisions issued statements in support of their teachers.

“Holy Spirit Catholic School Division fully supports the amazing work that our educators do to ensure that our schools are safe and welcoming places for all students and their families,” the Holy Spirit Catholic School Division’s statement read.

“Our staff work tirelessly and collaboratively with home and parish to ensure that the Catholic worldview is presented in a sensitive and pastoral way that respects diversity and protects the dignity of each individual student; who is a unique and precious gift from God, entitled to love and acceptance.”

“Lethbridge School Division unequivocally supports our schools and the professionalism of our teaching staff,” the Lethbridge School Division’s statement read.

“The division is grateful for the hard work our teachers do, along with everyone throughout the education system, to ensure our students are cared for and engaged in quality learning experiences on a daily basis.

“As always, the division, and our dedicated staff members, are committed to ensuring students are instilled with the values of learning, inclusion, respect, well-being and leadership.”

Allison Purcell, Lethbridge School Division board of trustees chair, likewise spoke in support of teachers.

“Our educators work tirelessly to ensure our students grow as learners and achieve their educational goals,” Purcell said.

“Supporting learning and attending to student well-being are at the core of what our staff members do each and every day.”

Tanner said in a statement released by the party Thursday that she made the video during the nomination process and that it spoke to her commitment to protecting children.

“It's clear that my choice of words have distracted not only from the issue I was trying to discuss, but are being used by my political opponents to hurt our chances of winning across the province,” she said.

The provincial election is expected to be held at the end of May.

Premier Danielle Smith said in the statement that she has accepted Tanner's resignation.

“I will be working with the local constituency and the party to appoint a replacement in the near future,” she said.

Trevor Harrison, professor of sociology and political scientist at the University of Lethbridge, said the ramifications of Tanner’s comments could stretch far.

“That could have a wider effect than just this particular riding for sure. So, we'll see the effect that it has,” Harrison said.

(With clips from CTV Lethbridge’s Quinn Keenan)

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