Debate over gay-straight alliances in Alberta reignites

CALGARY- A civil liberties group is hosting consultations in Calgary on Tuesday night over the issue of gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in Alberta schools.

The hearing is being hosted by the Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association and will see more than a dozen people participate in discussions at the University of Calgary. Panelists will look at how GSAs could work in Alberta schools as well as what new provincial legislation might look like.

GSAs have been a lightning rod for controversy in Alberta since the government first introduced new legislation in the fall session that would have given school boards the right to opt out allowing them on school premises. Bill 10 would have enshrined the right of students to create the clubs but forced them to appeal to the education minister if they were turned down by their school board.

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Premier Jim Prentice eventually suspended plans to push through the contentious bill after a significant public backlash which included a rally at McDougall Centre in downtown Calgary.

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“We have to remember that democracy isn’t just checking off a box every four years,” said Kelly Ernst with the Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association. “Democracy is getting involved in between those times and giving your input and having your say.”

On Tuesday morning, Edmonton’s city council passed a motion backing that city’s youth council’s plan to write a letter to the premier and the education minister opposing the bill.

The Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association plans to hold a similar hearing in Edmonton on Thursday.

GSAs have been launched in a number of schools across Canada with the aim of providing a safe place for LGBTQ students and to help prevent bullying.

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