Gay-straight alliances should be allowed in all Alberta schools: Civil liberties group

ABOVE: A civil liberties group has released a report recommending that gay-straight alliances be allowed in all schools in the province. Dallas Flexhaug reports.

CALGARY – The Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association has released a report recommending that gay-straight alliances be allowed in all Alberta schools.

The organization says a survey of a few thousand people in the province showed strong support for the alliances, which are student-led support groups for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

Association president Kelly Ernst says he would be surprised if the province doesn’t revise its legislation to allow for GSAs.

But he says it will get contentious if politicians go further than that and “start talking about parental rights or religious rights.”

The association also recommends the Alberta Human Rights Act be amended, specifically the parts which allow parents to keep their children out of classes which discuss topics like religion or sexual orientation.

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Ernst says repealing that part of the act would be a good start.

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“If you think about what a purpose of a school is, is to teach children to be able to deal with all of the issues that they’re going to face in the world and shutting down debate on specific issues is very, very counter to that.”

WATCH: Kelly Ernst with the Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association joins Global Calgary with details on their report which recommends that gay-straight alliances be allowed in Alberta schools.

Presenting the results Tuesday evening was Austin Bender, who received the Governor General’s Canadian Caring award for founding a GSA at Springbank Community High School in Calgary.

GSAs already exist in 94 public schools in Edmonton and Calgary but there are none in rural or faith-based schools.

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Earlier this fall, Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman introduced a private member’s bill which would have given students the right to set up GSAs in their schools.

But the Tories countered with a bill of their own which would have encouraged the establishment of the clubs but left the final decision up to schools and school boards.

The initial version of Bill 10 suggested if those steps were unsuccessful, students would be free to pursue the matter in the courts. The Tories later amended that to promise that if the schools said no, the government would set up the clubs.

Premier Jim Prentice put the legislation on hold at the beginning of December, saying he wanted to hear more from all sides before proceeding with it.

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