In response to the provincial government’s Nov. 2 announcement it was introducing a new act aimed at protecting Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) in Alberta’s schools, the Airdrie Pride Society issued a press release Nov. 11 re-stating its support for these student-run groups.
“It’s our job to support the LGBTQ community. Particularly, we feel it’s important to stand up for the kids in the community,” said Kayla Jessen, president of Airdrie Pride. “There’s lots of LGBTQ kids in this community, and the politicization of kids and their rights and the fact that they’re gay or trans or even just an ally – that’s just not OK.”
During second reading of the bill in the legislature Nov. 7, United Conservative Party of Alberta (UCP) leader Jason Kenney said UCP MLAs would vote against it. Kenney said he would continue to support the original bill, which gave teachers and principals the ability to talk to parents if necessary.
In response, Education Minister David Eggen and the NDP launched an online petition Nov. 8, which allows individuals to show their support for the new bill.
The petition is available at act.albertandp.ca/lgbtqsupport
Bill 24 will need to pass third reading in the legislature and get Royal Assent before it can pass into law.
“We strongly denounce the refusal to recognize the right of any student, of any age, to decide when and to whom to come out to. We continue to support LGBTQ+ students and their families. We refuse to play into identity politics at the expense of children,” the release from the Pride Society stated.
Airdrie Pride has reached out to Airdrie MLA Angela Pitt to discuss its concerns with the government’s bill and a date for that meeting is currently being arranged.
According to Jessen, Airdrie Pride has been in support of GSAs since the beginning and continues that support today.
“Statistically, 15 to 25 per cent of any population identifies as LGBTQ,” she said. “We’re currently getting in front of a bunch of GSAs. We’ve gone in front of George McDougall’s GSA, we have a meeting to get in front of (W.H.) Croxford’s GSA and we’re in the process of arranging a meeting with the Bert Church GSA.”
GSAs are not limited to high schools and a number of the middle schools in the Rocky View Schools division also have them, though they are sometimes called something else, like an inclusion club, Jessen said.
The Pride Society asked Airdrie City council at its Nov. 6 meeting to proclaim Nov. 14 to Transgender Awareness Week and Nov. 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance. Jessen said the transgender flag was being raised at the old Main Street firehall as part of that proclamation.
“We’re pretty thrilled by that. Forty per cent of transgender kids will try to commit suicide. That’s not even consider it, that’s attempt,” she said. “If a flag will help them feel more accepted and comfortable, I’m so excited about it.”
Jessen said Airdrie Pride is in the process of setting up a youth committee, which will include youth from across the community not just the already established GSAs, according to Jessen.
“The best way is to get the word out is to speak to (youth) directly. This will ensure any initiatives we have around youth will be youth-driven,” she said.