CALGARY- Dozens of Calgarians gathered outside the McDougall Centre on Thursday afternoon for a celebration of gay pride as the Alberta government prepared to pass a controversial bill on gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in Alberta schools.
Organizers said the gathering was not a protest or a rally but simply an event to show the strength of the local LGBTQ community, and one activist said he is stunned by the Progressive Conservatives’ position on gay-straight alliances.
“It’s separating kids,” said Mike Morrison, a gay rights activist and organizer of the Celebrate #ABPride event. “If a Catholic school board doesn’t want to have a GSA, by this bill, they’re basically allowed shipping them off to another place to have a GSA. How anyone can sleep at night, knowing that’s happening, is completely unreasonable to me.”
On Wednesday night, the Prentice government passed an amendment to Bill 10. Now, the bill stipulates that if a school rejects a GSA, the province will facilitate such a group, though it may not be on school grounds. Earlier, the bill would have required students to file a court challenge if their request for a GSA was denied, a process many legal experts said would likely see the charter and human rights law side with the students over the school boards.
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Mike Morrison said even with its amendments, the PC bill is a blow to equality in our province.
“It makes the LGBTQ community, specifically the kids, less than equal,” said Morrison. “It’s terrible.”
An online petition has been launched to voice opposition to Bill 10.
The heated political debate over gay rights in Alberta schools began earlier this year, when Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman tabled Bill 202, a private member’s bill calling for gay-straight alliances to be mandatory if students request them.
The province later tabled its own bill on gay-straight alliances in schools on Monday. Bill 10 will go to a third and final reading in the legislature Thursday afternoon.
-with files from Doug Vaessen