Alberta Minister Proposes a Strengthening of LGBTQ Support in Schools

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Alberta’s education minister, David Eggen, announced his intention to introduce new legislation, which aims to protect students who join in gay-straight alliances (GSAs).[1]

“Gay-straight alliances (GSAs) and queer-straight alliances (QSAs) are peer support networks that promote welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students and their allies.”[2]

Eggen’s soon-to-be proposed legislation will attempt to compel every school in the province, who receives public funding, including many private schools, to not only allow students to set up GSA’s but to protect those from being outed to their parents.[3] The current legislation, School Act, 16.1, was passed in 2015 which gives GSAs a legal right to exist and requires support from an employee of the school board.[4] Many publicly funded, private schools have not complied with the law.[5]

These guidelines have come at a time when Jason Kenney, who is running to be the leader of United Conservative Party, has made claims that he will out students who join GSAs to their parents.[6] Eggen calls this proposal “dangerous and cruel”, and would undermine the framework of GSAs as peer oriented, support groups designed to protect vulnerable students.[7] Kenney later clarified his initial comments stating schools should not be forced, under law, to tell parents of their children’s involvement in such groups, nor should the schools take a stance that would create “adversarial relationship[s] between parents and their children.”[8]

Some criticism of the proposed Bill changes has come from Calgary lawyer, John Carpay, who states parents have a legal right to be informed of their children’s educational experience, including extra-curricular involvement, in Alberta.[9] He previously analyzed the induction of s. 16.1 of the School Act (also s. 35.1 of the Education Act) arguing that it is “likely unconstitutional” as it infringes on s. 2(a) of the Charter.[10]

Eggen’s goal to strengthen the GSA program and to protect LGBTQ students will be read in the fall session commencing at the end of October.

 

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.

 

 

[1] http://www.metronews.ca/news/calgary/2017/09/28/education-minister-plans-to-bolster-gsa-legislation.html

[2] https://education.alberta.ca/gay-straight-alliances/what-is-a-gsa/everyone/external-links/

[3] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/david-eggen-gay-straight-alliance-laws-alberta-1.4311437

[4] School Act, RSA 2000 cS-3, s 16.1(1) and (2)

[5] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/david-eggen-gay-straight-alliance-laws-alberta-1.4311437

[6] https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/alberta-ndp-to-bring-in-law-to-prevent-jason-kenney-from-outing-gay-kids/article36431072/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

[7] http://www.metronews.ca/news/calgary/2017/09/28/education-minister-plans-to-bolster-gsa-legislation.html

[8] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/david-eggen-slams-jason-kenney-gsa-comments-1.4046248

[9] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/david-eggen-gay-straight-alliance-laws-alberta-1.4311437

[10] Mandatory Gay-Straight Alliances versus Charter Freedoms: An analysis of Alberta’s Bill 10 in light of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Loyola v. Quebec. John Carpay, B.A., LL.B. (2015)