This article was published on February 16th, 2015
While the United States continues to battle for equal rights throughout all of their 50 states, the most conservative province in Canada, Alberta, is in the middle of a battle to protect gay-straight alliances (GSA) in their schools. These clubs provides a chance for LGBT students in schools to gather in a safe place with a teacher sponsor and straight classmates. It is well known that suicide rates among gay and lesbian teenagers are much higher than their straight counterparts however, GSAs provide a much needed safe space.
The fall of 2014 saw two different bills before the Alberta Legislative Assembly that aimed to protect the rights of youth to form school clubs. To the relief of many throughout the province the Alberta Premier Jim Prentice put a pause to the debate in order to allow for more public consultation. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi characterized the debate as “damaging” and “hateful”. Mayor Nenshi was critical of this debate in the provincial legislative assembly as it’s about saving the lives of young students throughout the province. He said that he believed that this debate reinforced negative stereotypes of Alberta and his city. The 2 term Mayor suggested that these clubs were about the safety of students.
While the consultations are being undertaken at this time, Pride Calgary called upon the provincial government on Thursday to protect GSAs in all Alberta schools. “They make a tangible difference in the lives of a group of young people who are at heightened risk for suicide,” said Pride Calgary President Stephen Wright.
Wright’s group is encouraging political leaders, media leaders and everyone in the province to purchase a t-shirts from Pride Calgary to show their support for these youth. All proceeds from every t-shirt sold will help fund the expansion of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network through the Calgary Sexual Health Centre.
Often individuals from outside of Alberta believe that Alberta is a conservative province in Canada that isn’t accepting when the reality is the opposite. Wright concluded that “it’s important to remember we’re equal and valuable, no matter who we love”.
Political leaders everywhere must never forget that arguing over social ideologies is not going to save the life of a teen who is yearning to be accepted. Perhaps the social discourse in Alberta and throughout North America can be focused on how we ensure every single young people knows that they are valued and they do matter.