Kenney weighs in on Alberta LGBTQ education dispute

Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Jason ​Kenney has weighed in on the dispute between a Baptist pastor and Alberta’s minister of education over the issue of protections for LGBTQ students.

'He and his officials ought to meet with any schools in question and work out a sensible Alberta compromise'

Progressive Conservative leadership hopeful Jason Kenney said that while the bill is law in Alberta so are freedom of association and religion. (The Canadian Press)

Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Jason Kenney has weighed in on the dispute between a Baptist pastor and Alberta's minister of education over the rights of LGBTQ students.

During a speech in Calgary on Friday, Kenney acknowledged that legislation to protect LGBTQ students is "the law of Alberta," but "freedom of association and religion are also the law of the land."

He said Education Minister David Eggen and his officials should meet with any non-complying school boards and work out a compromise or other solution.

Over the past few weeks, Eggen and Pastor Brian Coldwell, chair of the Baptist Christian Education Society, have been arguing about guidelines that every school board is supposed to put in place to protect and support LGBTQ students.

The guidelines require all school boards to allow gay-straight alliances within schools. As well, each board must develop a policy to support and protect LGBTQ students.

Independent Baptist Christian Education Society board chair Brian Coldwell said that the opposition parties in the province aren't doing their jobs.

The Baptist Christian Education Society operates two Edmonton schools. Coldwell, who has previously said he would not implement a policy, has accused Eggen of wielding "dictatorial power." On Wednesday, the pastor slammed the opposition parties for failing to protect "fundamental freedoms."

Kenney, a staunch social conservative, said he knows that Alberta's previous Conservative government unanimously passed Bill 10, which gave students the right to form gay-straight alliances.

 'I would hope that the Alberta government would seek a generous sensible, balanced approach.'- Jason Kenney

"It's the law of Alberta," Kenney told the Economic Club of Canada in Calgary.

"Freedom of association and religion are also the law of the land, the first fundamental freedoms enumerated in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"So I would hope that the Alberta government would seek a generous sensible, balanced approach."

Jason Kenney said that he thinks Alberta Education Minster David Eggen is trying to “score political points.” (CBC)

Kenney also said he thinks Eggen is trying to score political points, which he doesn't think is helpful.

"I think he should take a more measured approach. He and his officials ought to meet with any schools in question and work out a sensible Alberta compromise or solution." 

He and his officials ought to meet with any schools in question and work out a sensible Alberta compromise or solution.- Jason Kenney

"There is a balance of interests and rights here and I think it's important for the government to respect that balance — to be prudent and thoughtful and balanced in the approach it takes."

Last week, Eggen wrote Coldwell to demand a written assurance by Sept 16. that the Baptist Christian Education Society will allow gay-straight alliances at its schools.

The minister has not said what the consequences would be if the society doesn't comply but hasn't ruled out pulling provincial funding.