Alberta’s LGBTQ students are some of the most at risk for marginalization, depression and suicide. To tackle this issue head on, students from all walks of life have taken it upon themselves to set up Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), student clubs that see everybody working together to promote equality and inclusivity in their schools.
GSAs provide a safe space. But currently, Alberta's publicly-funded schools can refuse to allow these student clubs because of the discomfort of some parents, the “traditional” values of administrators, or any other reason put forward.
On Nov. 20, Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman proposed a piece of legislation to fix this problem, requiring all Alberta schools to allow a GSA club to be formed where students wished to do so.
In response to this, the government rushed to introduce its own bill - Bill 10 - a “compromise” that actually formalizes the right of a school board to refuse a GSA.
Furthermore, if a school board refuses a GSA, the student’s only recourse is now to petition the Education Minister to set up a separate group that meets outside of the school board's purview. This further marginalizes vulnerable LGBTQ youth and entirely defeats the purpose of GSAs: the creation of a safe, tolerant space with their fellow students.
By allowing schools to refuse GSAs, the government is implicitly endorsing this discriminatory action. By suggesting wronged students instead create isolated clubs outside of the schools that make up the center of their social world, they are entirely missing the point.
Bill 10 is bad legislation that makes a troubling situation worse. It was hastily pushed through with limited debate. It needs to be scrapped and the government needs to start from scratch.
UPDATE: In response to pressure from Albertans, on December 4 Premier Prentice put Bill 10 on hold, promising to seek input before proceeding further.
Please sign this petition and send a message to your MLA asking them to push for new legislation to be drafted in consultation with LGTBQ students, advocates, allies and subject matter experts. These issues will not go away without the help of well-crafted legislation.
Let our government know that our children – and equality – are not things we’re willing to compromise on.
Sadly, we know that LGBTQ students still face a difficult situation in schools and there’s ample evidence to back this up.
Recent research shows that 64% of LGBTQ students don’t feel safe at school and 70% of all students say they hear anti-gay slurs and remarks EVERY SINGLE DAY.
This is brought to you by Albertans for Safe and Inclusive Schools. We're a group of Albertans who have volunteered our time to create this petition in order to support Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta's schools.
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