WATCH ABOVE: The Prentice government is moving forward with its own legislation that deals with gay-straight alliances in schools. As Tom Vernon reports, the opposition say it doesn’t go far enough.
EDMONTON – A new bill introduced by the Alberta government will no longer allow parents to pull their children out of class when homosexuality is discussed.
It’s one of a many changes brought forward under Bill 10. The bill was a last-minute piece of legislation announced by Premier Jim Prentice to clarify what he calls a divisive and unfair debate about homosexuality and children.
“First of all, sexual orientation is mentioned in the Bill of Rights; GSAs are now mentioned in Alberta school legislation, they weren’t mentioned previously; students can request a GSA be established by their school, by a staff member, or by the school principal; and students can now appeal to the school board if a decision is not made in their particular favour,” explained education minister Gordon Dirks.
Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives have been criticized for allowing students to be pulled out of class when homosexuality is discussed, and for not automatically giving students the right to form gay-straight alliances in schools.
Gay-straight alliances are peer-support groups that help LGBTQ students feel welcome and help prevent them from being bullied and abused.
Bill 10 still does not give students the automatic right to form these alliances, but gives them an appeal process first to schools boards and ultimately to the Court of Queen’s Bench.
Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman, who previously introduced Bill 202, explained that bill is still on the order paper, but believes it will be done once Bill 10 gets second reading.
WATCH: Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman becomes very emotional when discussing Bill 202, says PCs did everything they could not to let her speak on it.
Blakeman said the PCs went “lower than a snake’s belly” by delaying debate on Bill 202 and that they didn’t allow her to speak.
“They made damn sure that I never got to say a word on 202 through a number of really low moves.”
“This bill was dedicated to my mother,” Blakeman added. “She worked for the school board, she was a teacher and principal for 35 years and she got it. She made safe places for every teacher, staff and child in every school she was in before anyone else even understood it. I wanted to dedicate the bill to her. The Tories wouldn’t even let me do that.”
“This legislation ensures parents’ rights and core values are supported and sustained,” said justice minister Jonathan Denis. “At the same time, it makes a strong statement that bullying for any reason is unacceptable, and that our schools must be safe and respectful places for all students.”
The bill proposes amendments to the Alberta Bill of Rights, the Alberta Human Rights Act, the School Act and the Education Act.
The PCs intend to pass their bill quickly – the provisions in it are scheduled to take effect March 1.
WATCH: Trish Kozicka shares some of the online reaction to the PC’s new bill.
With files from Global News