Al­berta to bring in leg­is­la­tion for gay-straight clubs

NDP to bring in law to pre­vent Ja­son Ken­ney from out­ing LGBT kids

Medicine Hat News - - FRONT PAGE -

ED­MON­TON Al­berta’s ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter says he plans to change the law to pre­vent con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship can­di­date Ja­son Ken­ney from out­ing gay chil­dren.

David Eggen says the prov­ince has been work­ing for years on gay-straight al­liances in schools and he says he won’t let that process be un­der­mined.

“This whole idea (of) Ja­son Ken­ney out­ing stu­dents that join a GSA, we’ll make that against the law,” Eggen said Thurs­day. “Stu­dents make choices and this is ob­vi­ously a very sig­nif­i­cant choice around gay-straight al­liances.

“It’s sen­si­tive, and what is very in­sen­si­tive is to sug­gest that you would out stu­dents who chose to join a gay-straight al­liance.”

The al­liances are peer-support groups set up by stu­dents to pro­vide mu­tual support and pre­vent bul­ly­ing of LGBTQ stu­dents. Ad­vo­cates say out­ing kids be­fore they are ready puts them at risk of fam­ily os­tracism or worse. They also ar­gue the move would ef­fec­tively kill the al­liances be­cause kids won’t feel safe.

Ken­ney, a for­mer fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive cab­i­net min­is­ter who is run­ning for the lead­er­ship of Al­berta’s new United Con­ser­va­tive Party, has faced crit­i­cism for say­ing it’s best in some cases to tell par­ents their kids have joined a gay-straight al­liance. He has said school of­fi­cials are in the best po­si­tion to make the de­ci­sion.

Ken­ney de­clined to com­ment im­me­di­ately, cit­ing prepa­ra­tion for Thurs­day night’s lead­er­ship de­bate in Ed­mon­ton.

In an emailed state­ment, his cam­paign said “it’s un­for­tu­nate to see the NDP is us­ing chil­dren as po­lit­i­cal props, yet again, in or­der to dis­tract from their dis­as­trous eco­nomic plan.”

Eggen said the prov­ince will also bring in changes com­pelling ev­ery school that re­ceives pub­lic money es­tab­lish codes of con­duct against dis­crim­i­na­tion, adopt poli­cies to pro­tect LGBTQ stu­dents, and af­firm the ex­ist­ing le­gal right for stu­dents to set up a gay-straight al­liance if they wish.

He said many schools have been work­ing with the prov­ince al­ready to set up these rules, but said 20 of them, mostly pri­vate schools, are re­sist­ing.

Pri­vate schools get 70 per cent of fund­ing from the govern­ment, the high­est such ra­tio in Canada, Eggen said.

“If you are re­ceiv­ing pub­lic money then the law should ap­ply to those schools just the same as any other school,” he said, not­ing he has the power to pull ac­cred­i­ta­tion and fund­ing for non­com­pli­ance.

Ken­ney won the lead­er­ship of the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives in March and is now one of four can­di­dates vy­ing to be­come the leader of the United Con­ser­va­tive Party, cre­ated when the PCs and the Wil­drose party voted in July to merge.

PC mem­ber Richard Starke re­fused to join the party af­ter the merger, cit­ing in part his dis­agree­ment with Ken­ney’s stance on the al­liances.

In a speech to party mem­bers last week­end, Premier Rachel Not­ley blasted Ken­ney’s plan.

“It’s su­per-cruel, it’s su­per-ex­treme and it’s su­per back­wards,” said Not­ley. “I will not ever, ever, ever let them out gay kids.”

The is­sue has cre­ated a rift in the United Con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship race.

Lead­er­ship can­di­date Doug Sch­weitzer said he is op­posed to out­ing the stu­dents, es­pe­cially given chil­dren strug­gling with their sex­ual iden­tity who can’t get ad­vice and support some­times end up home­less or turn to self harm or sui­cide.

“We need to make sure that Al­ber­tans know that we’re not go­ing to be out­ing kids,” Sch­weitzer said at last week’s lead­er­ship de­bate in Cal­gary. “If for some rea­son, my daugh­ters weren’t com­fort­able com­ing to talk to me, I would want to make sure that they had a place to go where they could get the sup­ports they need.

“Be­cause the big­gest night­mare a par­ent could ever have would be a sui­cide.”

A new leader will be picked Oct. 28.

David Eggen

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