Calgary

Appeal dismissed in challenge to Alberta gay-straight alliance law

Opponents of Alberta's law allowing gay-straight alliances in schools were dealt another legal setback Monday after the province's highest court dismissed their appeal.
In 2017, the Alberta NDP government introduced legislation that requires school administrators to accept gay-straight alliances if students request one and prohibits staff from outing members to their parents. (Eduardo Lima/Canadian Press)

Opponents of Alberta's law allowing gay-straight alliances in schools were dealt another legal setback Monday after the province's highest court dismissed their appeal.

In 2017, the Alberta NDP government introduced legislation that requires school administrators to accept gay-straight alliances if students request one and prohibits staff from outing members to their parents.

Last year, religious schools, public interest groups and parents filed a lawsuit seeking to have the legislation put on hold until there's a ruling on its constitutionality.

Threat to funding

The coalition led by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms argued that keeping parents out of the loop violates their charter rights. It also raised concerns that schools' funding and accreditation could be jeopardized if they don't comply.

In June, an Alberta judge dismissed the request, but the coalition filed an appeal in September.

"The evidence of good achieved by GSAs in protecting the safety and privacy interests of individual children is more compelling than the new evidence of schools' termination of funding for non-compliance with the legislation," Justices Frederica Schutz and Dawn Pentelechuk wrote in their decision for denying the appeal.

John Carpay is one of the founders of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which was leading the legal fight against the GSA legislation. (Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms)

But, regardless of the legal battle, incoming United Conservative premier Jason Kenney has said his government will revert to old legislation that allows gay-straight alliances, but without blanket privacy protection for students.

Dissenting opinion

Schutz and Pentelechuk of the Alberta Court of Appeal also noted that the previous judge found there was no evidence to suggest schools will be defunded or de-accredited for the next school year.

Dissenting Justice Bruce McDonald wrote that schools should not be forced to violate their religious beliefs while the constitutionality of the legislation is pending.

"I am prepared to find that there will be irreparable harm done to the schools in question if they are forced to comply with the legislation that impinges their religious beliefs in order to keep open," McDonald wrote.

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