By Alexander Kim, March 12 2015 —
The Alberta legislature passed an amended Bill 10 on Tuesday, March 10, allowing gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in all of Alberta’s schools.
Minister of education Gordon Dirks revealed the revamped bill to the Alberta legislature on Tuesday. The bill specifies that a GSA may be formed in any school where students want one. The group must be allowed to meet on school grounds and students may not be restricted from naming the group a gay-straight alliance or a queer-straight alliance.
GSAs are student-organized groups that provide safe spaces and resources for LGBTQ youth. According to Alberta Education, there are 94 GSAs in Alberta schools, but none in Alberta’s faith-based schools.
High-school student Austin Bender, who founded a GSA at Springbank High School, said there shouldn’t be any obstructions to forming a GSA.
“If a student wants to start one, they should be allowed to. There shouldn’t be any roadblocks,” Bender said.
Bill 10 also updates the Alberta Bill of Rights to include the terms sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. A big win for LGBTQ rights in Alberta.
Only two MLAs voted against the bill, Progressive Conservatives Ian Donovan and Bruce Rowe.
Alberta Premier Jim Prentice first introduced Bill 10 to the legislature on Dec. 1, 2014. Earlier versions of the bill would have allowed school boards to block the formation of a GSA. The PCs proposed setting up an appeals process for students who were denied GSAs and allow them to be set up off school property.
The bill triggered public backlash and Prentice put it on hold. He said he would seek input from the public before revisiting the issue.
The Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association (RMCLA) held public hearings on the issue in Calgary and Edmonton in late January. They solicited feedback from the community on whether the Alberta government should pass legislation on GSAs and how it should be worded.
RMCLA held a meeting last week to release the report on their consultation.
“GSAs don’t interfere with the rights of anyone not involved in the club. It’s only the rights of students [that are interfered with] when they are denied the ability to form a GSA,” said RMCLA president Kelly Ernst.
RMCLA met with education minister Gordon Dirks to discuss the report. Ernst said Dirks agreed with many of their recommendations.
RMCLA also conducted an online poll during their consultation. According to the poll, 82.5 per cent of Albertans agree that GSAs should be allowed in all schools. Only 11 per cent of respondents agreed that schools should be able to block their formation.
“People in Alberta want GSAs to be available in any school to any students who want one, with no exceptions,” Ernst said.