Bill 24 passes, making it hard for Alberta schools to obstruct gay-straight alliances and illegal to out members to their parents

Posted on November 16, 2017, 1:08 am
9 mins

PHOTOS: Alberta Education Minister David Eggen, whose Bill 24, An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances, was passed by the Alberta Legislature yesterday. Below: UCP Leader Jason Kenney, former Alberta Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman, and social conservative activist John Carpay.

Bill 24, An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances, passed third and final reading by 42 votes to 23 in the Alberta Legislature yesterday morning.

Thanks to the efforts of the NDP majority in the Legislature, as soon as the bill comes into force it will be illegal for teachers and school administrators to tell parents their child has joined a gay-straight alliance at school without the permission of the child. The bill also closes loopholes now used by some schools to obstruct efforts by their students to form GSAs.

Yesterday’s vote brought to an end two weeks of often emotional and angry debate about the human rights of students still in school, the rights of their parents to be informed about their children’s activities, and competing inclusive and social conservative visions of how society ought to be organized.

Schools were already required to allow students to form GSAs if the students saw the need, in legislation that was reluctantly introduced and passed by the Progressive Conservative government of Premier Jim Prentice in 2015 under pressure from Liberals and New Democrats in the House and many voters throughout the province.

Passage of the 2015 law was described by media as “a stunning about-face,” and didn’t happen until after the same Tories had defeated a similar private member’s bill by Alberta Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman.

In the event, this dramatic change of heart by the Prentice PCs was apparently deemed insufficient by Alberta voters, who soon thereafter for a multitude of reasons surprised everyone, including themselves, and elected an NDP majority government led by Premier Rachel Notley.

Since then, of course, the PC Party has been absorbed by the Wildrose Party – now rebranded the United Conservative Party – in what appears to have been a project by the Manning Centre, remnants of Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party of Canada, and other well-connected social conservative allies to make Harper lieutenant Jason Kenney premier of Alberta.

The amendments to the original GSA law passed yesterday morning will not be an undue hardship for teachers, of course, who close to unanimously support it. The amendments may also save the lives of some students who come from homes where parents put their religious or social ideology ahead of their natural duty to love their children unreservedly.

Passage of the law is also a backhanded tribute to the influence of Mr. Kenney, leader of the UCP since Oct. 28, whose legislative caucus, their thinning hair afire, mostly manfully opposed the legislation from the get-go. (Only two UCP members skipped the vote yesterday, former Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, still licking his wounds from his leadership loss to Mr. Kenney, and Chestermere-Rocky View MLA Leela Aheer.)

After all, it was Mr. Kenney’s leadership campaign rhetoric that parents must have a right to know everything thing their children do at school – in particular whether they decide to join a GSA – that resulted in the decision by Education Minister David Eggen and the NDP Caucus to draft the law in the first place.

So, really, in the style of our Republican neighbours south of the Medicine Line, it would be fair to call this Jason’s Law,” after the man whose assiduous efforts to satisfy his social conservative base, which was energized and influential in the PC and UCP leadership races Mr. Kenney won, inspired it.

Since then, Mr. Kenney and his supporters have tried with only limited success to deny he is in favour our “outing” young people who may be at risk from their own families because of their emerging identities. UCP Education Critic Mark Smith claimed yesterday, for example, that the party supports GSAs, it just supports parents who want to help kids at risk more.

While there is a legitimate debate about who trapped whom in this dramatic political skirmish, the evidence suggests it was the NDP, this time, which outmaneuvered the UCP and not the other way around.

Accordingly, it is said here, the UCP would be smart to drop the whole matter like the proverbial hot potato now that they have amply demonstrated their fealty to their social conservative base.

After all, as the Manning Centre’s own research, uncovered and exposed yesterday by Press Progress, illustrates, this effort to put “parents rights” ahead of human rights is unlikely to win the UCP many friends among the next generation of voters.

“Conservative-oriented political parties are among the least-trusted group by Millennials across Canada,” said the leaked papers about polling by the Manning Centre. There are some traditional conservative positions which will be seen as ‘deal-breakers’ by Millennials, such as abortion, gay marriage, opposition to immigration, etc.” (Emphasis added.)

While the Manning Centre was using this not-very-startling revelation in a bid to raise money for its own efforts to remain relevant and in business, it does confirm a reality that almost any parent of Millennial children understands.

Notwithstanding the hopeful prediction by Postmedia political columnist Graham Thomson yesterday that the UCP is ready to put the issue behind them, fast, it will be hard for the rebranded Conservative party to do.

Even at the risk of facing more savage mockery by the likes of comedian Rick Mercer, the vocal and angry social conservative rump that makes up the hard core of UCP voters demands constant attention to its bugbears.

Consider John Carpay, the annoying social conservative activist from Calgary who has vowed to challenge Bill 24 in court at the first opportunity.

Mr. Carpay, president of an entity called the “Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms,” argues Alberta’s whole approach to GSAs, including the part that dates back to when the Conservatives were in power, “attacks and undermines the religious character of schools by forcing them to have GSAs, which are not peer support groups, but they are political clubs that promote an ideology that is hostile to Islam, to Catholicism, to evangelical Christianity, to Orthodox Judaism and to other religions…”

It’s odd that this wasn’t on the “Justice Centre’s” agenda when Conservatives supported by the Manning Centre passed the original law, but there is little doubt Mr. Carpay and his allies in the social conservative movement are quite sincere in their vision of what Canadian society ought to look like – regardless of how unappealing that vision may seem to some Boomer bloggers and Millennial voters.

But if he keeps his promise to keep the GSA pot boiling, Mr. Carpay will likely ensure Mr. Kenney remains in hot water too.

You have to ask, with friends like Mr. Carpay – if he persists in his determination to play a role in the Conservative camp not unlike the one environmentalist Tzeporah Bean played for the NDP – does the UCP need enemies?

7 Comments to: Bill 24 passes, making it hard for Alberta schools to obstruct gay-straight alliances and illegal to out members to their parents

  1. David

    November 16th, 2017

    The history of the PC’s on GSA’s reminds me of what Churchill said about the Americans, something to the effect that they did the right thing after exhausting all the possible alternatives. My thoughts of the UCP or in particular Kenney on this issue, is that he can probably be counted on not to ever do the right thing.

    It is somewhat ironic though that Kenney’s statements, in which he provided a hint how he wanted to try get around GSA’s were really the impetus for closing the loophole he brought up. However before we relax too much, I believe Kenney still wants to repeal everything the NDP did, should he ever get into power. Therefore GSA’s are safe for now, Kenney has lost that battle, but we should not forget Kenney is still fighting a larger war.

    In the short term, it seems the battle against GSA’s will move to a different front with Carpay and perhaps others leading the battle on this issue. However, I doubt Kenney will really distance himself too much from them or disavow them.

  2. Colino

    November 16th, 2017

    I am so sick of religious biggots like Carpay using their religious nonsense as an excuse to attack the children of our province. Gay children are still children and deserve our protection.

  3. Brett

    November 17th, 2017

    I don’t know whether Kenney cares about this issue or if he is simply putting on a ‘show’ for the right wing. Ralph Klein was the master at pretending o align himself with this group. I strongly suspect the latter based on his past record. Anything to secure the votes that will get him elected.

    Either way, time to move forward with some of the other important issues facing Alberta and Albertans.

  4. November 19th, 2017

    Not too hard to tell which political party this author supports…In any event, regardless of where you sit on the debate regarding GSAs, this legislation is a huge step towards a totalitarian state. This NDP government thinks they know how to raise our children better than their parents. Sound familiar? Ask the First Nations community how well that worked out vis a vis the residential school fiasco. Now we want to make the same mistake again? I laugh at the suggestion this bill is helping by putting human rights ahead of parental rights. If the NDP really cared about our younger generation, they would allow parents to continue to be the primary educators and caretakers of our children, and not the state.

  5. brett

    November 19th, 2017

    I think that we need to protect ourselves from the likes of Bishop Henry and Jason Kenney who have no children of their own but seem to present themselves as experts on child rearing.

    Still fresh in my mind is Bishop Henry’s condemnation of the HPC vaccine in Catholic schools. Even in light of the years long CDC study that showed the vaccine reducing cervical cancer by 30 percent. Fortunately the Catholic School Board had the great good sense to re-institute HPC vaccinations very quietly.

    Nor do I have much time for parents who actually disbelieve the existence of dinosaurs (yes imagine that in Alberta), do not want anything to do with teaching their children about evolution, let alone sex education. So much so that they engage in home schooling in an effort to shield them from the real world and encourage them to accept everything and question nothing from those of like minds.

    My thoughts are that some children need to be shielded from their parents and in some cases politicians whose primary goal of getting elected comes well before any sincere, but fleetng, thoughts of child welfare or education.


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