Alberta’s Wildrose and PCs at odds over gay-straight alliances in schools

Jean, Kenney at odds on gay student clubs

EDMONTON — Alberta’s two conservative parties, working on a deal to join forces, are at odds when it comes to social clubs for gay students in schools.

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean says he disagrees with Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney.

Kenney says schools, in some circumstances, should tell parents when their child joins a gay-straight alliance, also known as a GSA.

But Jean says parents are already notified if sexuality issues are taught in the curriculum, but says a gay-straight alliance should be left as a peer group for students.

“It’s much like a math club or a prayer club, and I don’t think that would be appropriate (for parents to be told when a child joins),” Jean told reporters Monday.

His comments came as NDP members heckled and criticized and shouted “Shame!” at the PCs in the house Monday over Kenney’s stance.

It’s also an issue that has gone around the globe, with international singing star Boy George calling out Kenney’s viewpoint on Twitter.

“Gay obsessed straight people. #creepy” the United Kingdom performer tweeted out to his 435,000 followers over the weekend. In a second tweet, he wrote “Surely his move cannot be constitutional or lawful. It’s certainly not moral or helpful.”

Kenney did not respond to a request for an interview but spokesman Blaise Boehmer, in a statement, reiterated that Kenney does not want schools outing students.

“(Kenney’s) position has not and will not change,” wrote Boehmer.

Kenney has not spoken publicly about his views since he spoke to a Postmedia editorial board a week ago. He said that parents should be told by school staff when a child, gay or straight, joins a GSA unless it’s believed telling the parents would cause harm to the child.

He reiterated that view in a Facebook posting last week.

“I trust teachers, principals and school counsellors to exercise their judgment about such matters, and that there should be a presumption that most parents are loving and caring, seeking only what is best for their children,” wrote Kenney

Gay-straight alliances are clubs for gay and straight students. The purpose is social but the goal is to foster better understanding and to give LGBTQ kids a safe place to be if they are facing harassment and intimidation.

They are also places for students to talk to peers about issues they feel may not be welcome at home.

Under a law passed by the PCs in 2015, all schools must set up a gay-straight alliance if students ask for one. 

Critics, including Premier Rachel Notley’s government, say telling parents before a child is ready is effectively outing a child and could have harmful consequences if the parents have concerns about homosexuality.

NDP member Estefania Cortes-Vargas told the house Monday that GSAs play a vital role and can prevent gay kids leaving home or even killing themselves.

“Outing them could be devastating,” said Cortes-Vargas.

Education Minister David Eggen agreed.

“Unlike the leader of Conservative opposition, our government does not out students,” said Eggen as other NDP backbenchers hollered “Shame” toward the PC benches. Ric McIver, the leader of the PC caucus in the house, and member Dave Rodney shouted back, their comments lost in the din.

Talking to reporters, McIver said he doesn’t want to out gay students either, but declined to answer specifically if he believes schools should, in some circumstances, inform parents if their child joins a gay-straight alliance. 

The issue is playing out against a backdrop of negotiations between the Wildrose and the PCs to join forces under a consolidated conservative coalition. Both Jean and Kenney have promised to run for the leadership should a new coalition be formed.

Kenney does not have a seat in the legislature and won’t seek one in the short term as he works to unify the two conservative party.

 

 

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Lack of security: why Vancouver Island food production is on the decline

Big Read: agriculture a big, expensive commitment as advocates push to make us more food secure

Coroners office investigates death of Victoria-area teen

Investigation involves ‘male teenager’, confirmed student at Oak Bay high

UVic team revved up for international competition

Students geared up for Formula Hybrid April 30 to May 3 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association joins counter-protest

GVTA released statement of support for LGBTQ in response to upcoming protest

WATCH: Topaz Park open house scheduled for Saturday

This will be the final stage of public engagement for park design

Lt.-Gov. Guichon believes she made the right decision

Outgoing Lt.-Gov Judith Guichon said her most memorable moments weren’t surrounding the election

Saanich Mayor Atwell recommends fall referendum on future amalgamation talks

A Saanich councillor applauds the possibility of a referedum on whether Saanich… Continue reading

Spring Home Show this weekend in Colwood

West Shore Parks and Recreation will be transformed to showcase everything home related

VIDEO: Smokers talk pot rules at annual 4-20 event

Annual pot protest-meets-festival in Vancouver attracted hundreds to vendors, concert

Saanich’s Shew sisters win gold, silver at national wrestling championships

Kiana, 17, won gold while Zena, 14, won silver at nationals

New funds, recruits set to alleviate B.C. sheriff shortage

The Government of British Columbia announced new sheriff graduates, funding for more classes

Video: RCMP investigation gets a deer little photobomb

Princeton RCMP were conducting a drug investigation in Princeton which a deer strolled through

Farnworth says five years too long for feds to deal with organized crime in medical pot

Needs to be dealt with much sooner than that, B.C. Public Safety Minister says

UPDATED: Unions, CP Rail come to agreement, avoiding work stoppage

Locomotive engineers, conductors and signals specialists seeking new collective agreements.

Most Read