Wildrose constituency president criticized for comparing GSAs to residential schools
Maureen Prince from Medicine Hat behind "Include Parents" buttons worn by some Wildrose MLAs
Deputy premier Sarah Hoffman is criticizing a Wildrose constituency association president for comparing the NDP's policy on gay-straight alliances to residential schools and eugenics.
Maureen Prince, the president of the Wildrose riding association in Medicine Hat, made the comparison in a Facebook post on April. 4.
She is behind the "Include Parents" buttons worn by a handful of Wildrose MLAs in the legislature Monday.
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"Creating safe spaces for children to eat pizza and watch movies is not the same thing as tearing children away from their families," Hoffman said Tuesday.
"To say that is the same as residential schools where children were stripped from their culture, from their communities, often faced physical assault, sexual assault, loss of language and culture, I think that shows just how out of touch some of the leaders (are) within the Wildrose Party, including this riding association president."
Hoffman noted that Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and the party's education critic Leela Aheer did not wear the buttons. Jean has said that parents should only be notified if a student joins a GSA either at the request of the child or if the child is at risk of self-harm.
Advocates say notification could out a LGBTQ student before they are prepared to discuss their sexual orientation with their parents.
Prince was introduced in the legislature by Cypress-Medicine Hat Wildrose MLA Drew Barnes Monday. Barnes and a about a half dozen other Wildrose MLAs wore the "Include Parents" buttons that afternoon.
In the Facebook post, Prince wrote in support of PC Leader Jason Kenney's position that parents should be notified if their child joins a GSA, which are voluntary, extracurricular school clubs.
"To those who disagree with Kenney, take a look at history," Prince wrote.
"When has the government done better than a parent? How did the native schools turn out? Yup, that was the government telling us they knew best. How about sterilizing handicapped people? Yup, another brilliant government idea."
Prince's statement drew backlash from commenters on her Facebook post.
"Comparing a GSA to residential schools is despicable," said Rochelle Knibb. "As the daughter of two survivors, I hope you never know the pain that that period of history has caused families.
"Allowing children the safety of a GSA will save the lives of those that have no other outreach available to them, especially in rural areas where small minded violent homophobes thrive."
"Unless you have some magical way of telling which parents are going to be grossly negligent, the safety of the child comes before the right of a parent to abuse them," wrote Lance Anderson-Croft.
"There are parents out there specifically telling schools NOT to allow their gay kids to join GSAs, for strictly religious reasons. These are precisely the kids who need the GSA and who need their membership kept from their parent."
Barnes would not speak to CBC News about Prince as he headed into question period on Tuesday but said he would be available afterwards.
He said later through a spokeswoman that a written statement sent earlier in the day would have to stand.
In that statement, Barnes said every child has the right to an education in a safe and caring environment. He also said parents are the primary decision makers in their child's education.
"The buttons that were provided to me by a constituent yesterday reflect this principle," he said.
"I do understand that some of the rhetoric currently brought to this debate is not helpful and lacks perspective. The bottom line is that parents need to be respected as partners as policy makers work to ensure the safety and security of children in the school environment."