Al­berta re­li­gious schools ar­gue GSA act vi­o­lates parental rights and val­ues

Fort McMurray Today - - ALBERTA NEWS - BILL KAUF­MANN

More than two dozen Al­berta re­li­gious schools on Mon­day ap­pealed a court rul­ing dic­tat­ing they al­low the cre­ation of so-called gaystraight al­liances free from parental no­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Last June, Court of Queen’s Bench Jus­tice Johnna Ku­bik dis­missed a bid by the schools, par­ents and pub­lic in­ter­est groups to de­lay im­ple­men­ta­tion of the NDP govern­ment’s Bill 24 un­til they can launch a con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenge.

The bid at the Al­berta Court of Ap­peal in Cal­gary is be­ing spear­headed by the group Jus­tice Cen­tre for Con­sti­tu­tional Free­doms (JCCF), which has la­belled GSAS “ide­o­log­i­cal sex­ual clubs” that they ar­gue have been used to bully, in­doc­tri­nate and spread sex­u­ally graphic ma­te­rial.

Even more im­por­tant, said JCCF lawyer Jay Cameron, are threat­ened parental rights in know­ing if their chil­dren are in­volved in such clubs that are meant to pro­vide a com­fort­able en­vi­ron­ment for LGBTQ youths and oth­ers.

“There is a prob­lem with the School Act be­cause it re­stricts in­for­ma­tion to par­ents,” he told an over­flow court­room.

“Par­ents’ rights and chil­dren’s rights are har­mo­nious to a cer­tain age.”

The schools ar­gue GSAS and the lack of no­ti­fi­ca­tion vi­o­late their fam­ily and re­li­gious rights and val­ues.

Mem­bers of the three-per­son panel noted at­tend­ing a GSA is vol­un­tary and noth­ing pro­hibits mem­bers from telling their par­ents they be­long to them.

But they also voiced re­peated con­cern over Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter David Eggen’s com­ments ear­lier this fall that schools fail­ing to com­ply with the pol­icy risk los­ing their provin­cial fund­ing for the 20192020 aca­demic year.

Jus­tice J.D. Bruce Mcdon­ald noted when Ku­bik made her rul­ing last spring, that ul­ti­ma­tum hadn’t been is­sued.

“It seems to be an at­tempt by the govern­ment to make the ap­pel­lants give up their lit­i­ga­tion,” said Mcdon­ald, whose co-pan­elists voiced con­cern about harm to sev­eral thou­sand stu­dents if their schools were forced to close.

There’s noth­ing solid about Eggen’s ul­ti­ma­tum but the 22 schools not in com­pli­ance with the leg­is­la­tion have the power to rem­edy any uncer­tainty, said Kris­tan Mcleod, who rep­re­sented the province.

“There’s still no ev­i­dence be­fore this court that any school will be re­fused fund­ing,” said Mcleod.

“The ob­vi­ous course for the ap­pel­lants is to post com­pli­ance to the pol­icy.”

She noted Ku­bic largely sided with the province, con­clud­ing there was no ev­i­dence of GSAS dis­tribut­ing graphic ma­te­rial or that not de­lay­ing the law would cause ir­repara­ble harm to young or vul­ner­a­ble youth.

And lawyer Bren­dan Macarthur-stevens said al­low­ing schools to no­tify par­ents about their chil­dren’s in­volve­ment in GSAS vi­o­lates pri­vacy rights that are even more vi­tal to vul­ner­a­ble LGBTQ youths.

“Out­ing stu­dents against their will would have dire con­se­quences and grant­ing an in­junc­tion would be a sym­bol that would not only harm LGBTQ stu­dents but gal­va­nize those with ha­tred,” said Macarthur-stevens, who spoke for the Cal­gary Sex­ual Health Cen­tre.

He also de­nied Cameron’s claims that el­e­men­tary school stu­dents join GSAS with much older stu­dents.

But Cameron in­sisted schools and cer­tainly the province have lit­tle power over view­ing and read­ing ma­te­rial dis­sem­i­nated at some of the clubs, which he said have in­cluded im­agery of con­dom use and sex with adults.

“Govern­ment has man­dated se­crecy but ab­di­cated re­spon­si­bil­ity … govern­ment has lost con­trol,” he said.

The panel will is­sue a writ­ten de­ci­sion on the ap­peal, though no date has been set for that.

Ear­lier, the panel ruled against a bid by Post­media, CBC and CTV to al­low the nam­ing of a Cal­gary Board of

GAVIN YOUNG/POST­MEDIA

Sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple ral­lied in sup­port of gay straight al­liances (GSA'S) and Bill 24 at Mcdougall Cen­tre in down­town Cal­gary on Sun­day Novem­ber 12, 2017.

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