WATCH ABOVE: “What kind of a world do we live in here?”: Naheed Nenshi speaks bluntly about the controversy surrounding gay-straight alliance legislation.
CALGARY – Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi took a brief reprieve from speaking to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce about the state of the city’s economy amid falling oil prices to discuss Alberta’s recent legislation on gay-straight alliances in schools.
Bill 10 was put on pause last week after triggering widespread scorn and outrage among critics, who saw it as opening the door to segregation of young homosexuals.
Nenshi spent several minutes discussing the controversial bill and how it has not made his job any easier over the last couple of weeks.
“If we say we live in a city where we were thinking it would be OK for a 15-year-old to appear before a judge to ask the judge if the 15-year-old can start a club in his school, a club that no one would be forced to belong to? Well folks that would be the Scopes Monkey Trial of Alberta. We would end up having international attention towards what kind of hillbillies we are.”
Premier Jim Prentice said he would take personal responsibility for Bill 10. He said while Bill 10 remains on the books he wants to hear more from all sides before proceeding with it. He wouldn’t say if or when the bill would be back.
Gay-straight alliances are after-school clubs made up of gay students and their classmates to help gay students feel welcome and to prevent them from being abused and bullied.
According to the Journal of Research on Adolescence, the rate of suicide among gay youth drops significantly when a school has a GSA.
There are 94 such clubs in schools in Edmonton and Calgary but none in rural areas or faith-based schools. Catholic school officials have resisted the clubs, saying they already have supports to make all kids feel included.
It has been a long-running and polarizing issue in Alberta.