Calgary

'GSAs save lives': Protester says LGBTQ community feels ignored by Alberta government

Members of Calgary's LGBTQ community say they don't feel heard by the UCP government, after not a single member attended a protest on Sunday despite multiple MLAs being invited. 

Dozens attended Calgary protest and drag show in support of gay-straight alliances

Calgarians attend a demonstration and drag show in front of city hall on Sunday in support of the LGBTQ+ community. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

Members of Calgary's LGBTQ community say they don't feel heard by the UCP government, after not a single member attended a protest on Sunday despite multiple MLAs being invited. 

Dozens met in front of Calgary city hall on Sunday for a drag show and demonstration, calling on the government to strike down Bill 8 and issue a public statement that it will support and protect the LGBTQ community.

Ryley Avery, one of the performers at the event, said they were upset not to see local MLAs in attendance. 

"They're almost ignoring it and just pushing it aside like it's nothing. And I'm not nothing and the queer community is not nothing."

The event was the latest of multiple rallies held in Alberta since the government announced their intent to remove certain protections for students in gay-straight alliances.

The new act does not have the Bill 24 protections enacted by the NDP in 2017, which made it illegal for teachers to tell a parent if a child has joined a GSA, to prevent students from being outed to their parents.

It also removes a provision compelling principals to immediately approve a GSA once students ask for one. 

Avery said they've experienced devastating bullying over their identity. In November 2018 Avery was assaulted so violently they ended up in hospital.

"My GSA was something that kept me alive. I'm quite literally living proof of the pact that GSAs save lives," said Avery. "There's students, teachers that all need those safe spaces. It's just important."

NDP MLAs Joe Ceci, Janis Irwin and Kathleen Ganley attended the protest. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

NDP MLA Janis Irwin, who represents Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, attended the demonstration along with other members of the Opposition.

"I'm pretty sure that this government was hoping that the whole Bill 8 discussion would kind of fizzle out over the summer, but clearly look at this crowd here in Calgary. Calgarians are standing up in support of queer kids across our province," she said. 

"The UCP kept trying to tell Albertans that Bill 8 wasn't going to change things … I think if they truly stood behind their messaging they'd be here." 

The demonstration was held just blocks away from where Calgary's first permanent pride crosswalks were being painted on Sunday, on Stephen Avenue east and west of Centre Street. A ceremony marking the occasion will take place Monday at noon. 

With files from Lucie Edwardson

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