Just days after Bill 202 was introduced at the legislature, about 200 people gathered at the University of Alberta to discuss the importance of making schools an inclusive space for LGBT students.
Sixteen-year-old Andrew Janewski attended the third annual Gay-Straight Alliance Saturday with his father by his side. Janewski runs the gay-straight alliance at his school in Edmonton — an experience he finds both rewarding and frustrating.
“I wish that the [Edmonton Public School Board] would educate the teachers because it’s hard to run this program when your teacher sponsors have not had education on the subject,” Janewski said.
The issue of making schools a more inclusive space for LGBT students came to the forefront at the legislature when Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman introduced a private members bill aimed at protecting those students from bullying.
Bill 202, the Safe and Inclusive Schools Act, was tabled at the legislature on Thursday. While the bill has the support of the NDP, both the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative caucuses have not indicated whether they will back it.
Edmonton mayor Don Iveson attended Saturday’s conference, and although he does not have a vote at the legislature, he fully supports Bill 202.
“People don’t all come in the same shapes and sizes, colours and genders so it is important that a space everyone is compelled to go to as part of their education makes space for everyone,” Iveson said.
Janewsky's father Tim Janewski says the government needs to do more to help Albertans in need.
"It's become very obvious to me that a whole lot more support needs to be provided in Alberta in our mental healthcare system and in our school system to help people who are struggling, not just LGBT kids, but everybody," he said.
For Janewski, the GSA conference is that welcoming space people hope for.
“It gives LGBT youth from around Alberta a place to gather once a year, and learn about things and have a really great day,” Janewski said.
Janewski's father hopes the discussions at the conference on Saturday can be the start of meaningful change.
“I would love to see future where kids could go to their high schools and enjoy them and thrive,” he said.