GSAs ‘a right that we should have had from the very beginning’

Youth who fought for gay-straight alliances in Alberta schools are happy the government changed its mind on the issue, but say they shouldn’t have had to fight in the first place.

Speaking to the CBC’s Mark Connolly on Edmonton AM, the president of the Edmonton Youth Council said she wanted Albertans to remember something the next time they vote.

“GSAs save lives, but so do seat belts. And it just should have been a given,” said Clare Edwards.  

“We should be excited about it. But it’s a right that we should have had from the very beginning.”

Education Minister Gordon Dirks and his government faced loud opposition when they killed a Liberal bill allowing students in any Alberta school to create a gay-straight alliance. The Tories introduced their own bill which would have required some students to go to court to start a GSA.

The controversy ended in an abrupt reversal this week. Dirks credited the youth themselves for changing his mind on the issue.

“They had talked about how they had felt bullied and discriminated against,” Dirks said of meetings he had with students and their families.

He said he was moved hearing the personal stories from children. Some described suicidal thoughts and talked about how much the GSA helped them through that.

“It goes from your head to your heart when you hear those kinds of conversations,” he said.

Dirks explained that there is a provision in the new amendment that would allow a member of the public to be the designated adult leading a GSA at a school where a staff member may not be able to participate for religious reasons.



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