December 3, 2018 9:12 pm
Updated: December 3, 2018 9:19 pm

Gay-straight alliance law challenged at Alberta Court of Appeal

WATCH: A court of appeal heard both sides on the impacts of gay straight alliances in school. While one side argues they limit a parent's right to know, the other says it protects children whose parents may not accept their sexual identity. Jill Croteau reports.

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A legal challenge being mounted against Alberta’s controversial law around gay-straight alliances went before a three-judge panel in Calgary on Monday.

Two dozen faith-based schools argued that Bill 24, which deals with GSA clubs in schools, restricts the flow of information to parents. The group behind the legal challenge says parents are worried because their children’s participation in GSAs won’t be disclosed to them.

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Bill 24 says that parents cannot be notified about their children’s participation in the clubs unless their child consents.

Jay Cameron is the lawyer for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. He said the law strips parents of knowledge about their own children.

“There is a flaw in the legislation and my clients are uncomfortable with the imposition of a requirement to comply with it when there’s a problem with it,” Cameron said. “It’s not lawful to require schools to restrict information from parents about small children full stop.

“That’s not the law in this country and the Crown is attempting to make it law in this country.”

READ MORE: Judge dismisses request to put Alberta gay-straight alliance law on hold

But those who support LGBTQ students say members of GSAs are often vulnerable and their rights should be protected with respect to “coming out” on their own terms.

Pam Krause with the Calgary Sexual Health Centre said students shouldn’t be subjected to having someone else “out them.”

“We don’t want there to be secrecy [and] we don’t see any need that students shouldn’t be able to have self-determination,” Krause said. “They are clubs and one with a very important purpose.

“The No. 1 thing students want to work with us on, is how to come out to their families. Nobody is trying to hide anything from anyone, but sometimes it’s not safe.”

Those spearheading the appeal also strongly object to Education Minister David Eggen’s recently imposed compliance rules.

His ultimatum suggests funding and accreditation would be at risk if schools don’t adhere to the law.

“The minister’s order in November is clear: ‘If you don’t comply with policy requirements then you will be defunded from the 2019 school year,'” Cameron said.

A written decision by the judges is expected sometime early in the new year and will be made public once it is issued.

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