REGINA – They’ll raise a a flag supporting gay and lesbian pride, but a longtime advocate for gay-straight alliances (GSAs) says the Saskatchewan government isn’t supporting them in schools.
“I know of at least 16 schools right now where it has been articulated … that they’d like to have a GSA, but because of certain factors feeding into that, they have not yet received one,” said Chandra McIvor, a longtime campaigner for GSAs.
Also known as gender and sexuality alliances, a GSA is essentially a support and activism group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students.
McIvor says students have told her about school administrators discouraging the groups and suggesting there are no gay students.
The government argues that no students have been denied a GSA, so there’s no need for a law.
“Where they’ve raised the name of a school, we’ve gone to the school and invariably found not only that there had been a request, but the request had been followed up and the GSA existed,” said Education Minister Don Morgan.
The Opposition NDP want support for a private members bill that, among other things, legislates the right to GSAs.
“There is a time and a place for symbolic laws and I don’t believe this is one of them,” Morgan said.
NDP leader Cam Broten shot back at Morgan’s response, saying the law wouldn’t be about symbolism at all.
“This is about ensuring kids are safe,” Broten said. “This is about ensuring kids are supported and they have the right to form groups that help them out.”
WATCH BELOW: Global’s Kim Smith explains why the Saskatchewan government doesn’t see a need for legislation to back up gay-straight alliances (Mar. 12, 2015)
Alberta’s former Progressive Conservative government came under fire for fighting GSA legislation for a year before finally passing a bill this past spring.
The Regina Public School Division says GSAs exist in every one of its eight high schools – an argument for why legislation wouldn’t necessarily enhance current support.
A November 2013 action plan to address bullying said Saskatchewan schools should respond positively to requests for GSAs.
Without a legal right, McIvor points to research showing kids’ lives could be at risk.
“Having a GSA in a school reduces suicidal ideation for both LGBT-identified youth and those who are straight and cisgender.”