Alberta’s attack on gay-straight alliances rests on the same logical fallacy as Russia’s ‘gay propaganda’ law – coincidence, or what?

Posted on December 08, 2014, 12:19 am
7 mins

Russian police arrest citizens protesting against the country’s anti-gay laws, which rely on the same logical fallacy as the Prentice Government’s moves to suppress a bill that would have supported gay-straight alliances in schools. Below: Alberta Liberal MLA and GSA advocate Laurie Blakeman, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Alberta Premier Jim Prentice.

Give Jim Prentice and his political advisors some credit: the narrative they used to justify sidelining a private-member’s bill that would have forced schools to allow gay-straight alliances to operate on their premises, while based on a logical fallacy, is a persuasive one to many citizens who are not paying particularly close attention.

Implicit in the government’s position that legislating the right of students to form GSAs at their schools conflicts with “family rights” is that the notion that what is being interfered with by the mere existence of the clubs is the right generally accepted in our society of parents to guide their minor children on questions of sexual morality.

As it happens, this argument in such circumstances is not without precedent. It is exactly the same logical fallacy that was used to justify the anti-gay legislation signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 30, 2013, which bans “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.”

Now, there is no question, the Russian legal situation is much worse that what has just happened in Alberta. Arguably the purpose of the Russian law is to attack public and private activities by all LGBTQ citizens, including pride parades, personal relationships and even the wearing of non-traditional clothing.

But the justification is the same, that the assertion of rights by LGBTQ citizens to be who they are and live their lives as they please is the equivalent of propagandizing minors to live an LGBTQ lifestyle, which is patent nonsense.

The specific logical fallacy in the Prentice Government’s position on GSAs – to be technical about it, the argument from a false premise – is that the purpose of GSAs is somehow to encourage and facilitate gay sex, or at the very least to extend the rights of LGBTQ citizens beyond those enjoyed by “the rest of us.”

What is wrong with this implication, obviously, is that this is simply not the purpose of a GSA as envisaged by Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman’s Bill 202. GSAs as set out in that proposed law in fact had an utterly different purpose, to act as gay-straight student peer support groups to protect members and other students from all kinds of bullying, including physical violence, in a safe environment.

But while no official spokesperson for the PC government has ever explicitly stated this second part of the argument as the nature of the supposed “conflict” they keep referring to, it is clearly implied by the very claim there is a conflict.

What else could it be? Indeed, if I’ve somehow got this spectacularly wrong and completely misinterpreted their intention, I urge the Prentice Government’s supporters to explain here just what parental right they think is being interfered with by the existence of a GSA in a school. The comments section is open to you!

At any rate, it is completely obvious to anyone who follows social media that this is precisely the meaning put on the Prentice Government’s policy by those of its supporters who comment on Twitter, Facebook and in the comments sections of blogs like this one, not to mention the letters sections of traditional print publications.

“As a parent and grandparent, I demand to be able to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to what my children are taught in school and out of school,” wrote one commentator on this blog in a very typical argument. “The LGBTQ folks are asking for special rights over and above everyone else’s and that is wrong,” this writer went on, describing in graphic detail what he imagined young people would be “taught” in a GSA, a description I deleted.

We have all heard this kind of thing, and heard it repeatedly.

The reaction of conservative commentators in Canada to Mr. Putin’s legislation back in 2013 was fierce. Some even suggested we should boycott the Sochi Winter Olympic Games as a result.

The reaction of the same people to Mr. Prentice’s use of the same misleading kind of argument – with a small number of honourable exceptions associated with conservative politics, such as Edmonton MLA Thomas Lukaszuk and former Senator Ron Ghitter – has been more muted.

Of course, as always when bad legislation is being drafted, the opportunity for other agendas to sneak in is often irresistible. In Russia, Mr. Putin used the anti-gay laws also to restrict the activities in Russia of foreign-based non-governmental organizations. In Alberta, someone in the government is clearly trying to use Bill 10 to further entrench the “parental rights” narrative from U.S. politics to make it easier to fund private religious schools with tax dollars.

The Russian Law’s Orwellian title, by the way, is “On Protection of Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development.” The Alberta law, tellingly, is titled An Act to Amend the Alberta Bill of Rights to Protect our Children.”

Nor was the logical fallacy implied by our government’s oft-repeated claim that rights are somehow in conflict the only one in this sad Alberta tale.

As Dean Bennett of the Canadian Press shrewdly pointed out in a Tweet on Dec. 3, Speaker Gene Zwozdesky “kills Bill 202, guaranteeing GSAs in favour of Bill 10, which doesn’t, on grounds bills ‘too similar.’”

Don’t you think this sounds like Lake of Fire 2.0?

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18 Comments to: Alberta’s attack on gay-straight alliances rests on the same logical fallacy as Russia’s ‘gay propaganda’ law – coincidence, or what?

  1. Ray Domeij

    December 8th, 2014

    They will out Wildrose the Wildrose to get back the creepiest members they lost to them

  2. CuJoYYC

    December 8th, 2014

    “An Act to Amend the Alberta Bill of Rights to Protect our Children.”

    When I first saw the title of Bill 10, I realized that supposedly moderate Prentice had ripped a page right from the Harper Cabal’s Doublespeak manual.

  3. Alex P

    December 8th, 2014

    Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you, if parental rights was a real thing, would any child bring home a recorder to practice?

    Parental rights talk just leads to giving abusers the ability to keep their kids from realizing there’s such a thing as the Kids’ Help Line. I can only imagine what the reaction in the grimy end of the gene pool would be to something like this:

    Smart, young women who deserve to be heard: Porter
    Two feminist clubs have popped up at Toronto high schools. Not only are these groups badly needed — they should be replicated at schools across the city

    I’m going to suggest that my parental rights to insist that schools be inclusive and supportive, nevermind reasoned, progressive, and science based is being trod upon by the parental rights of people who think bubbles rise in soda because the almighty pulls on tiny strings.

  4. Gar Fisher

    December 8th, 2014

    The dark side of populism.

  5. Sam Gunsch

    December 8th, 2014

    In addition to Lukaszuk’s critique, Doug Griffiths comments are worth a read.

    Perhaps his most pointed is this about school boards:
    (EXCERPT): “They have the right and ability by our Constitution to teach faith but not to enforce it.”

    from this EXCERPT:
    “Some people have called and argued with me that Catholic school
    boards have a different right than public school boards in that
    they’re faith based. But my understanding from all my studying of
    the Constitution is that that enables Catholic school boards to
    teach their faith within the schools – teach their faith within the
    schools – not enforce values on their students. I mean, to simply
    suggest that they have that ability – is it going to be now that
    students are going to get docked grades and not be allowed if their
    parents get divorced or split up or something? I mean, they don’t
    have the right to enforce those values. They have the right and
    ability by our Constitution to teach faith but not to enforce it.”

    Griffiths makes it clear he supports GSA’s and any other efforts
    to prevent bullying.

  6. Harry E. Stuart

    December 8th, 2014

    I have the honor of having 2 young adult (teenaged) Grandkids, both straight, numerous nieces, nephews (all straight) and one cousin who happens to be a lesbian…I have had conversations with most of them about how they feel about a GSA in their schools…The answers I got back is the same one that I would have given when I went to school, from the straight kids…(“Government and adults should quit trying to push crap down our throats that we either do not want or care about”) From my lesbian niece, ” A GSA in schools, especially rural schools will only make life worse for the gay person”, “Bullies have been aound since man started walking upright and will not be stopping anytime real soon unless parents are required to take courses in child rearing before bringing kids into this world…I believe it’s time the so-called “Experts” talked to the kids who have to work their asses off to make a 50-60% grade and less chatting with those “few” who can pass a grade without reading a printed word…We are on a slippery slop with this and it will go nowhere quick with government pushing it down the kids throats…

    • Athabascan

      December 8th, 2014

      I’m so proud of you for speaking to most of your family’s younger generation. I guess that within your shallow gene pool opinions are unanimous. Therefore, I suppose we should accept as fact what your family’s opinion is and visit it on everyone else. It must be so nice to have a family (including one lesbian) speak for all of us wayward Albertans.

      • Harry E. Stuart

        December 9th, 2014

        Far from a shallow gene pool…The younger people I have talked with do NOT want to be told that they must attend GSA clubs if they themselves do not wish to…In rural Alberta, forcing these young people to attend these clubs would only make bullying a sport of sorts…In our community we do not not have a whole lot of gay people living here, one person who claims to be and he is included in everything already… is being gay a city phenomenon? hmmm, maybe another reason our young people do not wish to even shop in the cities…The principal in our high school has told the students that if this dumb bill becomes law, every kid would be required to attend the meetings or lose credits…..So what is next, having African/Canadian clubs, Muslim/Christian Clubs?..where is it going to end, every group wanting special rights and clubs in schools?In my humble opinion, the gay folks should start the clubs themselves, invite straight people into them and hold their meetings in a public arena, not forcing kids who would rather not attend them…Oh, I don’t hide behind a false name, so what is your problem, Athabascan, for not letting the world know who you are? And you want special treatment, yeah right…

        • December 9th, 2014

          Mr. Stuart: This comment requires some additional responses. First, no one, including gay students, would be required under Laurie Blakeman’s proposed legislation to attend a GSA. Where did you come up with this? If you sincerely believe it, you are mistaken.

          Since this is the same policy that now exists with other school clubs, what on earth would be wrong with a Muslim-Christian Club? Might promote a little understanding. Your assertion that this would be a plea for special rights is preposterous, unless of course you think the School Christian Fellowship is a cry for special rights. Oh, wait, it’s members ALREADY have special rights!

          You say “in our community we do not not have a whole lot of gay people living here.” Yeah, right. That you know of, my friend. My guess is that if your attitudes are typical of community attitudes wherever it is you live many of your LGBTQ neighbours have decided that discretion is the better part of valour.

          As you will have noticed, I don’t hide behind a false name either.

        • Ness

          December 9th, 2014

          Harry, I think you’re missing the point of the bill. GSAs will only be formed in the schools *where students want to form them.* There is no requirement for a school to form a GSA or for students to attend. The only thing the bill says is, if some students at a school want a GSA, the school can’t stand in their way.

  7. rwrev

    December 9th, 2014

    Pretty sad when a democratic provincial government does not realize their mandate is to represent all citizens. One must question a MLA’s who do not possess the commons sense and are so misinformed. There is nothing wrong with a grade three understanding if you are grade three but the MLA’s are not in grade three

  8. Harry E. Stuart

    December 9th, 2014

    rwrev…The MLA”s job is to represent the voters and taxpayers of this province, not special interest groups…That is one of the reasons Alberta ran into problems with Stelmach and Redford…David, the kids who suggested they would have to go to club meetings or lose credits used the words of the school principal…there may be a lot of things about this bill whether layed out by Blakeman or Prentice that is good and bad but the taxpayers should not have to spend one dime helping any special interest group…Keep it out of the schools…If the gay folks want such a club, rent a space in their community centre and invite all to come, don’t force it on the kids at any age in schools they have enough on their plates already..

    • December 9th, 2014

      So, I take it, Harry, that you’re in favour of closing ALL clubs in the school, including Christian groups and the chess club. Well, that’s silly, but at least it would be fair. As for the principal’s statement, either the students are quoting him or her inaccurately, or the principal is mistaken. Citizens are not a special interest group.

  9. Harry E. Stuart

    December 9th, 2014

    I do not feel that taxpayer dollars should be used to fund anything in schools that is not already on the curriculum and yes, the students at this school were told by the principal that if the bill did become law, the students would be obligated to attend the functions held in the school or lose credits…maybe the principal is wrong or misguided by what he has read….and the Gays Rights Alliance is a special interest group…I do believe that the Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms have this covered when the charter includes èveryone`without having to be specific about who èveryone`is…To me, it means all of us, irregardless or race, color, sexual preference, religion, gender or anything else so the request to have GSA legislated in the Province of Alberta is actually pandering to a Special Interest Group….Should the Pedo`s or the Nympho`s have the same rights as the Gay Folks want at this rateÉ

    • Athabascan

      December 9th, 2014

      This is a nonsensical argument. I suppose it was only a matter of time until someone like Harry would invoke the boogeyman “pedo” into the conversation about LGBTs.

      I don’t want “Harry,” if it is his real name, and those of his ilk burning a cross on my front lawn. Does that make me a member of a special interest group?

    • Northern Loon

      December 9th, 2014

      Harry – the more you write on this subject the more you prove yourself as being the shallow end of the gene pool puddle. The original Bill 202 is not about pandering to a “Special Interest Group” (not sure why you choose to capitalize this) but providing assurances that youth who wish to form and belong to such a group will not be denied by parents or school boards who do not understand the purpose of GSA’s. Your argument about “Pedo’s or Nympho’s” demonstrates your complete lack of understanding of human rights.

      BTW – where do you get there being a “Gay Rights Alliance” from any of this? We are talking about Gay Straight Alliance’s which is more akin to the camera club, or the young PC club than being a special interest group.

      If a principal did tell students that they would be required to attend GSA functions or lose credits – well I guess that principal and you can have fun together splashing around at the shallow end of your puddle.

    • Alex C Polkovsky

      December 9th, 2014

      Harry E. Stuart, if my pseudonymity is a problem, lets talk name to name.

      Please be assured that gay-straight alliances are not dating clubs. At least no more than the last time the debate team figured out they practice across the hall from the band room. They would not be mandatory, that would just mean GSA would be the school population. They are a source of ‘safety in numbers’ and support. No one will abandon a peer group full of popular kids for one with unpopular kids, but I hope a few would overlap . Which is not an argument for only having popular kids’ clubs.

      Paedophiles, by which I mean adults who rape kids (what do you mean?), already have a large club with chapters everywhere one can have authority and trust and will not be questioned or challenged. Places where police will not take a complaint seriously are extra conducive.

      Teens, even ones who’s dreams are giving them all kinds of new feelings are no more sexual than any of their peers, straight ones, gay, lesbian, or questioning ones. Realising an attraction does not make make a kid more sexual, although social norms could. (Hello, football team, how are the testosterones pumping.)

      And speaking for myself, I value school clubs in general. For the cost of keeping the lights on, students get amazing value and it even keeps them in school. Bullied kids skip school more often, have poor grades and develop poor life skills. Oh, and often attempt suicide.

  10. Deb Mohr

    December 10th, 2014

    I’m the mother of a gay son. If anyone ever wondered why schools need gay-straight alliances, our friend Harry E. Stuart just removed all doubt. Schools need these clubs because unkind homophobes like Harry exist in droves.

    Harry, it’s estimated that 1/10th of the population is gay. There is a very good chance that a member of your family is or will be gay. And no, a member of a rural family is not less likely to be gay than a member of a city family. (A rural homosexual may be more afraid to come out, given the homophobic mentality that exists in many rural communities). When someone YOU love, Harry, confides in you that he or she is gay, your thoughts immediately turn to fear. You will be terrified for your child, who is now at the mercy of the Harrys of the world–who know nothing about your child. They won’t know that your son is a brilliant, funny, thoughtful, loving person who takes his grandmother to her doctor’s appointments. The Harrys of the world won’t care about how troubled your child feels, how afraid he is of what people will think of him, or that he hates his own feelings so much he wants to end his life. The Harrys of the world don’t understand that being gay isn’t about sex; it’s about love. It’s simply about having romantic feelings for a soul of the same gender. Imagine how you would feel if it were YOUR child feeling the hatred and dismissal?

    The good news is, there are a lot of other good people out there who do not harbour silly notions like ‘gay people can turn straight people gay.’ And there are a lot of straight people who would not be the least bit threatened by becoming friends with a gay person. They’d probably have a lot of fun, because it’s been my experience that whatever genetic code makes a person gay, also makes them born with a huge measure of creativity and kindness. They’re fun to be around. Maybe it’s because they know what it’s like to be shunned, but gay people are also immensely tolerant of others. My son has lots of friends, both gay and straight.

    My son did not come out when he was in high school. He took a sweet and pretty girl to his graduation, not the person he dreamed about. What a shame that kids can’t just be their precious and authentic selves. A gay-straight alliance would just give gay kids a safe place to be. Chill out, Harry. Nobody would be

    It’s a shame, Harry, that your family “does not care” to learn about inclusion and compassion for their fellow students. It’s a shame their grandfather doesn’t teach them.


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