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Kenney’s gay-straight alliance comments raise fears over possible outing of LGBTQ youth
Less than two weeks into his tenure as the leader of the PC Party of Alberta, Jason Kenney says he has no plans to repeal Bill 10 but some Albertans are concerned vulnerable children may be at risk should the former MP come into power.
In a recent interview with Postmedia, transcription provided by the director of communications for Jason Kenney’s leadership campaign, Kenney discussed gay-straight alliances (GSA) in Alberta schools.
“I have said that I would not repeal Bill 10, if that’s what you’re asking me. And I do, however, think that parents have a right to know what’s going on with their kids in the schools unless the parents are abusive, in which case there are protocols to deal with bad parents. I don’t think it’s right to keep secrets from parents about challenges their kids are going through.”
Gay-straight alliances are voluntary, inclusive, student-based support groups.
Alberta’s Education Minister David Eggen called Kenney’s remarks disturbing.
“We’ve been working hard the last two years, at least, to build safe and caring schools for students,” said Eggen from outside the Legislature on Wednesday. “Jason Kenney’s comments are a setback from building safe and caring schools here in the province.”
Mike Morrison, an LGBTQ advocate, says he was nervous when Kenney was elected as PC leader but he still found Kenney’s recent comments startling.
“It’s really upsetting that, in 2017, one of the first issues that Kenney targets, nine days into his leadership of the PCs ,is LGBTQ kids,” said Morrison. “If the most vulnerable kids in the public school system aren’t protected then I think all LGBTQ Albertans, child or adult, should be really worried.”
Morrison says significant research into the safety of vulnerable children has determined that informing parents of their children’s involvement in a GSA can be extremely dangerous.
“There’s a lot of people who will say, about this issue, parents have a right to know about what their kids are up to. This is a different discussion. Parents don’t have a right to know that their kids are gay. That’s up to the child to tell their family when they’re ready.”
“To me, if one kid is outed and sent into an abusive home, that’s one too many. I don’t understand why some think that’s acceptable.”
On Wednesday, Kenney took to his Facebook page to state that the best interests, and safety, of children is of the utmost concern.
“Some are falsely claiming that I want to force schools to ‘out’ children to their parents.” said Kenney in the post. “This simply is not true. I have never said this, nor do I believe it.”
Kenney reiterated that he would not support repealing Bill 10 and emphasized his trust in the abilities of the province’s teachers, principals and school counsellors to exercise sound judgment.
“When dealing with complex issues like gender and sexual identity, I believe our education system should recognize that every child, and every circumstance, is unique. In some cases informing parents would clearly be inappropriate. Longstanding laws and protocols exist to protect children from potentially abusive parents.”
Morrison questions Kenney’s stance, saying the long-serving politician’s true colours have been on display for decades.
“His post expects us to believe that he hasn’t voted against gay rights for his 20 years as an MP. This isn’t his first opportunity to go against LGBTQ rights and it’s par for the course for him.”
“So many of us work so hard to show that Alberta actually is an inclusive and proud province that accepts LGBTQ Albertans but there’s always going to be some politicians and their supporters that disagree.”
Alberta’s Education Minister admits there is currently nothing in Bill 10 to prevent teachers from informing parents of a child’s involvement in a GSA but says he is looking at ways to improve the legislation.
With files from CTV’s Alesia Fieldberg