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Liberal MLA to introduce bill that would mandate gay-straight alliances in Alberta schools

Watch above: The Alberta Liberals plan to introduce legislation that would mandate school boards to allow gay-straight alliances in all their schools. Tom Vernon reports.

EDMONTON — Alberta Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman plans to introduce a private member’s bill that would mandate school boards to allow gay-straight alliances in schools.

“I’m hearing from a lot of people that this is going to happen, it’s a matter of time. Okay, good. Let’s do it now,” she said Wednesday.

Blakeman will introduce Bill 202, the Safe and Inclusive School Act, when the fall session resumes next month. She says it’s aimed at making all Alberta schools safe and inclusive, with supportive learning environments for students regardless of sexuality, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The bill would require all school boards to develop policies to support students who want to lead gay-straight alliances. GSAs are student-led clubs where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students and their heterosexual peers work together to make schools more welcoming for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.

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The bill would also repeal section 11.1 of the Alberta Human Rights Act, which requires a parent or guardian be notified if sexual orientation will be discussed in the classroom.

“I think to deny human rights, and particularly to children, reduces the humanity in all of us. And I would like to see that addressed,” said Blakeman.

“That piece of homophobic legislation needs to go. It’s preventing young people from engaging in conversations about what it means to be a responsible, respectful citizen,” added Dr. Kristopher Wells, director of programs & services with the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies & Services at the University of Alberta.

A motion was put forward by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr earlier this year to make it mandatory for all Alberta schools to allow for the creation of GSAs, but was voted down in the legislature.

READ MORE: Alberta legislature votes down gay-straight alliance bill

Wells believes the ground has shifted on the issue, but says he still hears stories of students being denied the right to form GSAs, so the bill is needed.

“I’d like to see a free vote in the legislature and see where people really stand, not necessarily with party lines, but standing on what’s right and what’s principled. And that means supporting young people in our schools, and that means supporting gay-straight alliances,” he said.

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“The research tells us that gay-straight alliances save lives. And so to be against gay-straight alliances in our schools continues to put young people at risk.”

*Global News reached out to Alberta’s Education Minister for comment Wednesday, but he was not available.