United Conservative Party leader, Jason Kenney, says his caucus is willing to meet in the middle on a provincial bill that would make it illegal for teachers to tell parents if their child has joined a gay-straight alliance — and suggesting that his party wants to ‘out’ vulnerable kids is “ridiculous.”
In an interview with The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos, Kenney explained that the UCP has proposed a few amendments that they believe will make the NDP legislation less objectionable, but the government has not been willing to budge.
The current law in Alberta leaves it up to teachers to determine if parents should be informed of a child’s membership in a gay-straight alliance. Bill 24, otherwise known as the Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances, would require they get express consent from the child.
The Alberta government says there would be exceptions in circumstances where that child’s safety was at risk.
“The reality is we’re just supporting the status quo,” Kenney said.
“We support gay-straight alliances and peer support for kids who are going through bullying or facing prejudice … but we think that every child is unique, every circumstance is different.”
Kenney maintained it should be up to teachers to make a judgment call on informing parents, not the province.
After several days of consultation, Kenney announced last week that his party will oppose the legislation in Alberta’s legislature, calling it an attempt by the governing NDP to distract from their economic record.
Premier Rachel Notley fired back at Kenney and the UCP, arguing that protecting students from being outed to their parents against their will is “basic stuff.”
A week later, Kenney maintains that it is the wrong move for Alberta’s schools — in spite of the fact that it’s being backed by the Alberta Teachers’ Association and Calgary school boards.
“A lot of teachers don’t agree with that view,” Kenney told Kapelos, without elaborating.
He also said that the bill will effectively create a way out of the requirement for parental notification when “sensitive matters around human sexuality” are being taught in schools — that is, if they are being taught in connection with a gay-straight alliance’s activities.
“I think GSAs are supposed to be a peer support club, not an alternative classroom.,” Kenney said.
The UCP’s proposed amendments would ensure that the current rules around consent for teaching material dealing with human sexuality remain the same regardless of the context, Kenney explained, and would exclude elementary schools entirely from Bill 24. The government has rejected those proposals, however.
The vote on the law will be a free one for the UCP caucus, meaning MLAs will be permitted to vote however they wish.
“I would certainly respect if MLAs have a conscientious view and they want to vote differently,” Kenney said. “But there’s a strong consensus in our caucus that the current law is serving children well.”
— Watch the full interview with Jason Kenney above