Education Minister David Eggen fields media questions after the passing of Bill 24 in the Alberta legislature on Nov. 15.
The passing of Bill 24 is a victory for Alberta teachers and students, said Alberta Teachers’ Association president Greg Jeffery.
The bill, entitled An Act to Support Gay–Straight Alliances, prohibits teachers from informing parents that their child has joined a gay–straight alliance (GSA) in school.
“This will make our schools safer places and give often marginalized kids a place to belong,” Jeffery said after the bill passed third reading on Nov. 15.
The bill passed with support from 42 MLAs and opposition from 23 — all the members of the United Conservative Party (UCP) who were present in the house.
During the lead-up to debate on the bill, UCP leader Jason Kenney said that teachers, not politicians, should decide when it makes sense to involve parents.
“Highly trained educators are in a much better position than politicians to exercise their discretion on whether it is in the best interests of a child to engage parents,” Kenney said in statement on Nov. 7.
UCP MLAs who spoke to the bill raised objections that it would remove parents’ rights to learn from teachers about important changes in their child’s mental state. Calgary-West UCP MLA Mike Ellis introduced an amendment to the bill that he said would remedy the possibility that a GSA could be a cover for the teaching of a veiled sex education curriculum.
Ellis stated that the UCP “unequivocally support GSAs” but he thinks Bill 24 “deliberately or unwittingly erodes parental rights.”
“Now is the time for the government to reassure Albertans that they have no intention of coming after their rights as parents,” Ellis told the assembly.
Government MLAs responded to such criticism by saying the bill protects kids.
“It’s deeply disappointing that the members opposite continue to peddle dangerous conspiracy theories instead of accepting the simple fact that this is about protecting kids,” said Calgary-Hawkwood NDP MLA Michael Connolly in response to Ellis’ proposed amendment.
Premier Rachel Notley spoke in defence of the bill by suggesting that, by not supporting it, UCP members were failing to stand up for vulnerable youth and wanted to out gay kids.
“I suspect there are some members over on the other side of this room who are struggling with their conscience,” she said, “and to those members I would suggest that what you should do is to stand on the right side of this issue because you know as well as I do that only one person and one person only has the right to out a gay kid — and you should not pretend otherwise — and that, of course, is the kid.”
Who said what
Support Our Students
“#Bill24 is about protecting some of the most vulnerable students in our province!”
- via Twitter
Kristopher Wells, Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, University of Alberta
“As legislators, now is the time to reflect and ask yourselves, ‘What kind of Alberta do you want to build?’ An Alberta that is inclusive, welcoming, compassionate and open to diversity? Or an Alberta that would rather engage in fear and division where gay kids are reduced to harmful stereotypes and used as pawns to further political agendas?”
- as reported in the Edmonton Journal
Jason Kenney, UCP leader
“The NDP is trying to do indirectly what cannot be done directly: teaching sensitive subjects that would normally require parental notification.”
- as reported in the Calgary Sun
Mike Ellis, UCP MLA for Calgary-West
“Now is the time for the government to reassure Albertans that they have no intention of coming after their rights as parents. Now is the time for the government to prove that it doesn’t have anything up its sleeve.”
- Alberta legislature
David Eggen, education minister
“Jason Kenney suggested earlier this year that schools should be able to out LGBTQ students to their parents, and that, Mr. Speaker, is dangerous. We’re trying to create a safe and caring environment and a safe sanctuary for students in a GSA and we can’t compromise the integrity of that…”
- Alberta legislature