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Alberta Party supports gay-straight alliances

Posted on April 09, 2014 by Greg Clark

The headlines ricochet around the world.

“Alberta MLAs vote against gay-straight alliance bill for schools”

“Gay-straight alliance bill for schools voted down in Alberta”

“Alberta Conservatives join Wildrose to defeat bill in 31-19 vote allowing gay-straight alliances in high schools”

These headlines, and the close-minded thinking that spawned them, are hurtful to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) teens in Alberta. They also perpetuate the outdated and flat-out wrong stereotype of Alberta as an intolerant place where only those who conform to some archaic notion of morality are considered acceptable.

The Alberta I know and love is a place not simply of tolerance, but a place of respect. Respect for all people irrespective of where the come from, the colour of their skin or who they love.

This reflects my Alberta, and I believe reflects the views of the vast majority of Albertans. It is also the right thing to do.

But there are still pockets of intolerance in the province and that’s why Motion 503 is so important. There should never be a barrier when students, in any school, of any faith, anywhere in the province, want to create a group proven to reduce bullying and promote inclusion. Gay-straight alliances are a powerful tool that provide a supportive environment for LGBTQ youth and their straight allies. 

By rejecting Motion 503 the PC and Wildrose MLAs who voted against it (and the 36 MLAs –over 40% of the Legislature– who gave their tacit approval by choosing to be absent for the vote) sent a damaging message to LGBTQ teens, but also to the rest of the world about Alberta. An Alberta that desperately needs to attract people from around the world to drive our growing economy.

Defeating Motion 503 not only hurts LGBTQ teens. It might just hurt Alberta’s prosperity.

On the record, once and for all, the Alberta Party strongly supports GSA’s. It is completely consistent with our core values of inclusiveness, caring for one another and ensuring the safety of our most vulnerable, among which LGBTQ teens must be included. We believe that GSAs in school will actually save lives.  

We have to ask, is there any reason that we would not want our children to feel safer in schools? 

The Alberta Party represents an Alberta that is welcoming to all. It's the politicians that need to catch up.

Greg Clark
Leader, The Alberta Party


Showing 8 reactions


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  • commented 2014-04-12 21:46:12 -0600
    Hi Harry,

    I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this subject. It certainly does seem that Motion 503 was primarily symbolic, especially since it really only asks the government to introduce legislation. If the government were to introduce legislation, it would also be debated and the fine points would need to be reviewed at that time. For that reason, it seems your friend’s concerns about room for interpretation would be best applied to the actual legislation, should it be introduced. Given (it’s my understanding) that the current Premier indicated that he would have voted in favour of this motion, perhaps we will see this legislation come forward.

    I appreciate that there may be some complexities regarding Catholic Schools, and perhaps other types of schools, but I don’t believe that the topic should be avoided simply because it may be complex. In my opinion, what’s most important is that the rights of students are protected, regardless of where they go to school. In any case where the provincial government is fully funding a school, there should be an expectation that a certain minimum standard is met. I suppose that, for the time being, I will choose to believe that the government would prevail in any challenges to it’s authority to impose a minimum standard. If not, I suppose it will be necessary to look at how the system can be changed to ensure that the government has the authority to impose such a standard. The government already imposes many standards on all schools, including Catholic schools, so I feel confident here. That said, I am in no manner an expert on this topic, and I could ultimately be proven wrong there.

    Regarding Greg’s assertions that our province’s reputation could ultimately harm our economy, I feel that his comments are fully justified without presenting specific evidence in this case. He is stating his opinion that, if the province is widely regarded as being unwelcoming to LGBTQ people, that could lead to some people choosing not to come to our province to work or start a business. It seems reasonable to suggest that this could harm Alberta’s economy to some degree, considering that I understand that Alberta is experiencing a shortage of some types of skilled labour. There would be no reasonable way to produce data to support this assertion (relating specifically to Alberta) until the damage has already been done. Therefore it seems fully acceptable for Greg to express this point of view, along with his hypothesis about why it could make it more difficult to attract people to the province. People are free to agree or disagree, and discuss the topic. At the end of the day, from my perspective, that statement is more an expression of values than it is about specific policy. I think it’s helpful for voters to understand the values that underlie each politician’s decision-making. We need to trust them to make decisions on our behalf, and many of those decisions will be influenced by values, more than anything else.

    Sadly, I fully expect that we will see some Alberta schools and/or school boards identified as refusing GSAs in the future. We saw one board identified earlier this week in a news report from CTV Edmonton. That said, I would return to my statement that it takes significant courage to be the person who brings this item forward. We’re not just talking about parents, school principals, or schools board trustees… we’re also taking about kids. Many of these kids are among the most venerable in our school system and we can’t downplay how difficult it might be for them to come forward publicly.

    As this debate has occurred in other areas of the country at an earlier date, you will find public examples of boards refusing GSAs in other provinces, including significant debate around GSAs in Catholic schools in Ontario (here’s an example of a news article on this topic: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/catholic-school-trustees-fear-fallout-over-gay-straight-alliance-furor/article4230933/).

    In the end, I’m hopeful that this debate will have actually have made it less likely that an Alberta school or school board will refuse a GSA in the future, but I suppose time will tell.

    As for Greg’s statement, at least Albertans will know where the Alberta Party stands, regardless of which party is in power in the future. I can’t see how that’s a bad thing for anyone.

    Have a nice weekend, and thanks again.

    Richard
  • commented 2014-04-11 09:20:54 -0600
    PS A number of us have been asking for the schools / school boards who have been “non cooperative” in the past to be named, since everyone is citing “those schools” but no one has identified them. Do you know who they are? I would think that they are violating some variant of the Charter with such a stand. I would also think that if such schools exist which would prompt the need for Motion 503 then they should be identified.
  • commented 2014-04-11 09:11:08 -0600
    Thanks for your kind reply, Richard. I ran the motion by a lawyer who consults to the Federal Government on policy and constitutional matters before I made this observation and my thoughts were a summary of what was explained to me. His largest concern was that there was room for interpretation and within that room comes complexity. You know how lawyers are (and I don’t mean that in a bad way – precision matters).

    I still have a couple of questions …. how does this impact Catholic / Charter schools in Alberta? I spoke to a provincial government lawyer in Edmonton who admitted that the impact on such legislation was unknown and that some legislators might see the solution as being easier to dissolve such school systems rather than go through the work of adapting that legislation to match the results of this motion. I don’t know the complexities of this – just relaying what was expressed. :-)

    The other thing I am curious about is Greg’s statement about the failure of the motion having a potential impact on Alberta prosperity. Being a long time Wall St guy, such statements require data to support it and not just “I have a feeling that …..”. Too many politicians toss such statements around with an idea towards whipping up emotion. I am hoping this is not the case here, since such statements aren’t helpful.

    Thanks again for your kind exchange, Richard – create a great weekend!

    Harry
  • commented 2014-04-10 21:07:36 -0600
    Hi Harry, Motion 503 was not intended to make GSAs mandatory, although that was mistakenly reported in the media a number of times. It is intended to compel school boards and principals to ensure that any student who wished to set up a GSA is provided support, and allowed to do so. There is not anything in the motion about making GSAs mandatory, and that would be very difficult to do as well :-)

    There have been many reports of schools / boards choosing to not allow GSAs, and the motion is necessary for this reason. In many cases, parents and students are hesitant to “go public” with being barred from setting up GSAs because they fear consequences for the students, who are often subject to bullying and abuse (especially if the school administration isn’t on their side). Most recently, key members of current government (the Education Minister, for example) have stated that it should be left to the boards to decide, so they are not supportive of this measure – although they may say that they are “supportive of GSAs”. That said, it’s important to note that a number of PC MLAs did support the measure, and curiously, this includes the Premier, so it’s a bit difficult to know the position of the government. From what I see here, the Alberta Party (and leader Greg Clark) is stating its stand on this issue, which seems quite appropriate given the amount of debate.

    The text of the motion is below for reference:

    “Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Government to introduce legislation, like Manitoba’s and Ontario’s, requiring all school boards to develop policies to support students who want to lead and establish gay-straight alliance activities and organizations, using any name that is consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive, welcoming, and respectful for all students regardless of sexuality, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
  • commented 2014-04-10 18:05:02 -0600
    It is my understanding that the current government is not against GSAs. What didn’t pass was a motion making them mandatory. Therein lies a large difference. This appears to be political leveraging, something I thought the Alberta Party was beyond.
  • commented 2014-04-10 10:43:12 -0600
    Thank you for this, Greg.

    This is yet another example of how the Alberta Party stands for something that so many progressive Albertans need and want.

    Joe
  • commented 2014-04-09 23:11:29 -0600
    Well said Greg, and thank you for supporting motion 503.
  • commented 2014-04-09 21:38:54 -0600
    Hear, hear. Clearly stated. I am proud to support the values of the Alberta Party. Schools have the responsibility to provide a safe and nurturing place for growth and learning. GSA’s are a tool to support students and even to protect them from the intolerant among us. For instance, from people who would vote against such a motion.

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