August 18, 2016 1:54 pm
Updated: August 24, 2016 7:59 pm

Alberta education minister’s open letter supports LGBTQ students: ‘I’m with you 100%’

WATCH ABOVE: After months of debate and consultation, all of Alberta's 61 school boards now have LGBTQ policies for the upcoming school year. Tom Vernon explains.

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As students prepare to head back to school, Alberta’s education minister is speaking to them directly, assuring them province supports the LGBTQ community and stressing their right to form Gay-Straight Alliances.

In an open letter posted to Facebook on Tuesday, David Eggen wrote:

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“A few weeks from now, you and thousands of other Alberta students will head back to class. And when you do, you have rights that your schools will respect.

You have the right to feel safe and welcome at school.

You have the right to create a Gay-Straight Alliance or a Queer-Straight Alliance, and you have the right to name your clubs this way.  

You have the right to use the washroom that is consistent with your gender identity. I want you to know that I will support each and every one of you. Together, we will make sure that the rights you have, and the policies your school boards have worked on, are being lived out in your schools.  

As Minister of Education, I have been working with your school boards to make sure that our schools are welcoming and caring. All boards have created new policies to support LGBTQ students and they will now come to life in your schools.  

In the coming weeks, Alberta Education will be promoting new resources to make sure that schools are safe and welcoming. You can also reach out directly to my staff, who can help you ensure your rights are being respected, at studentsupport@gov.ab.ca.  

As we stand together, let’s embrace the differences in one another.  

We will all be better for it in the long run.  

And remember: I’m with you one hundred per cent.”  

– David Eggen, Minister of Education

Last November, Eggen told all school boards in the province to develop inclusive LGBTQ policies in accordance with the School Act or ensure the current policies align with it.

In a letter sent to school boards, he said every board’s policy must ensure schools are welcoming, caring, respectful and safe for all students.

READ MORE: Alberta tells all school boards to create LGBTQ inclusive policies 

Bill 10, An Act to Amend the Alberta Bill of Rights to Protect our Children, passed third reading in March 2015. The bill made the approval of Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) mandatory in Alberta schools.

READ MORE: Alberta’s education minister says students who want GSAs should have them 

In a radio interview on NewsTalk 770 with Danielle Smith on Thursday, Eggen said reaching out directly to students was a way of being “proactive” and “setting a tone.”

Eggen said he has been working with school boards over the last several months and described the process as “positive.”

When it comes to enforcing Bill 10, he doesn’t anticipate a lot of issues and he still prefers addressing specific complaints in a “collaborative” manner.

“I expect people will follow the law,” Eggen told Smith. “The law is clear when it comes to Gay-Straight Alliances.”

He said the email was set up to assure students know the province has their back. Eggen added the education ministry will “follow through” on any complaints it received through the studentsupport@gov.ab.ca address.

“I just wanted people to know, straight from the ministry, that we’re there for them.”

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