Candidates seeking election in the two Mountain View County-area constituencies have outlined some of their views on the future of gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in Alberta schools.
In the Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills riding, incumbent UCP MLA Nathan Cooper is facing off against Alberta Party candidate Chase Brown, NDP candidate Kyle Johnston, Alberta Freedom Conservative Party candidate Allen MacLennan, and Alberta Advantage Party candidate Dave Hughes.
GSAs are student-led clubs that provide support to their members. Current legislation prohibits anyone from informing anyone else that a student belongs to a GSA.
Cooper said he would support keeping GSAs in schools.
“At the end of the day kids need to be safe and feel safe in their school environment,” said Cooper. “We don’t support mandatory notification of parents.
“What Jason Kenney (UCP leader) has said was there may be some circumstances in which it is the best interest of children for parents and teachers to work closely together to manage these very sensitive issues.”
Brown says he would not support doing away with GSAs in schools, and would “ensure the rights and safety of our LGBTQ youth” if elected.
“GSAs provide security and support to kids who desperately need it,” Brown said. “Most parents are loving and supportive, however there are children in this province that live in abusive homes. It’s simply immature to believe otherwise.
“Statistics show there is a greater risk of homelessness and suicide amongst LGBTQ youth who face rejection from their families. This means there is an inherent risk in LGBTQ youth not being able to control and consent to the timeline of coming out to their parents.”
Johnston said he would support keeping GSAs in schools.
“There is a population of our citizens who are not comfortable coming out to their parent, so having GSAs gives a mechanism to talk to one another and deal with the situation,” Johnston said.
“I don’t see why we need to out our kids in schools. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
MacLennan said he does not support having GSAs in schools.
“All of a sudden you don’t have control of your children when it comes to joining a gay-straight alliance club, whatever that is,” MacLennan said.
“Our actual justice system is based on individual justice so what they are trying to do is convert it over to group justice (where) if you are a member of a group you have special privileges. I don’t think it’s the purview of the government to set up clubs.”
Hughes says there should be a provincial referendum on the future of GSAs.
In the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding, incumbent UCP MLA Jason Nixon is facing off against Alberta Party candidate Joe Anglin, Green Party candidate Jane Drummond, Alberta Advantage Party candidate Paula Lamoureux, NDP candidate Jeff Ible, Alberta Freedom Conservative Party candidate Dawn Berard, Alberta Independence Party candidate Dave Rogers, and Independent candidate Gordon Francey.
Drummond said she is in favour of keeping GSAs in schools.
“Alberta’s young people have the right to safety while working out their place in the world,” said Drummond. “Youth rely on open and private interactions with their peers to help find their new place.
“GSAs provide a safe place where integration of the past knowns with future possibilities can take place. I am in favour.”
Anglin said he would not support scrapping GSAs.
“I have no problem with the GSAs,” Anglin said. “All they are are anti-bullying clubs. That’s what they do. It’s about reducing bullying.
“The data that comes out about these GSAs is that they reduce teenage suicide dramatically. This is abut life and death and I will always support these life-saving mechanisms.”
Lamoureaux said GSAs should be eliminated.
“We are not in a position to tell parents that they are not allowed to know what their children are doing,” Lamoureaux said. “We are all for different safe clubs, but we are empowering parents to make safe decisions for their families. And it’s not fair to the schools or the teachers to hold back that information.”
Regarding GSAs, candidate Nixon said, “We will work to modify the Education Act and make sure that parents’ relationship with teachers are maintained. We trust teachers and principals to work with parents.
“We don’t think politicians in Edmonton should be determining what should be told to parents. We strongly believe that teachers and principals know what’s going on with kids and know when to communicate with parents.”
Ibel said GSAs should be maintained and supported in schools.
“They should be kept and they need to be kept,” said Ibel. “It’s important that we stay on the right side of history. We need to ensure that our schools are very caring and safe spaces for all kids to learn.
“This is not a situation where a parent is notified that the child is on the chess club or the football team. No person has ever been discriminated against because they are on the chess club. This is a whole other dynamic and you can’t compare it to parents being notified of other school activities.”
Rogers said health professionals should oversee GSAs.
“Yes, we do need these clubs and yes, it should be handled case by case if it has to go through the parents or if it should be kept quiet,” said Rogers.
“I don’t think the teachers should have anything to do with that. If they (health professionals) feel it is safe to go out to the parents then fine.”
Francey said he would support removing GSAs from schools.
“There is a long tenant that parents are responsible for their children up to the age of 18, and because of that parents have the right to know what their children are doing,” said Francey.
“I don’t think they should be in schools. Schools are for education and not for social engineering.”
Berard could not be reached for comment at press time.
Albertans go to the polls on April 16.