Calgary

Jon Cornish, Pride Calgary concerned about PC's gay-straight alliance bill

Some high-profile Calgarians speaking out against the Alberta government's Bill 10 say the legislation is outdated.

Bill 10 a cowardly attempt to win votes in rural ridings, says transgendered teen

Calgary Stampeder running back Jon Cornish is speaking out about Bill 10. 2:32

Some high-profile Calgarians speaking out against the Alberta government's Bill 10 say the legislation is outdated.

The government bill would allow school boards to prohibit students from forming a gay-straight alliance (GSA).

It passed second reading in the legislature Tuesday. An amendment was approved tonight that would give GSAs to students who want them. If the school board refuses, the minister of education would then intervene.

Calgary Stampeders' running back Jon Cornish — who often speaks in support of his mother who is now married to a woman — compares treating LGBTQ youth differently to racism. He said he felt pressure for having a different skin colour when growing up.

"I mean it's unacceptable," he said. "I mean this is almost 2015, so absolutely I will say something. And hopefully I will continue being able to say stuff."

Cornish says he wants his kids to grow up in a world where it doesn't matter who you love or what colour your skin is.

"These are issues that need to be settled now," he said.

GSA has created safer space, says teen

A transgendered student at a Calgary high school calls Bill 10 a cowardly attempt to win votes in rural ridings.

Sam Dyck says things have improved for LGBTQ students at his school since the formation of a gay-straight alliance. (CBC)

Sam Dyck, a 16-year-old female-to-male transgendered student at Forest Lawn High School, said the bill is the government’s attempt to pander to the homophobic element in this province.

"It's just their sneaky little way to change a few things to try and keep their voters so they're in power."

Dyck said things have improved for LGBTQ students at his school since the formation of a GSA.

“It was bad. People were getting bullied just for wanting to hold their same sex partner's hand or even trying to participate in the GSA,” he said.

“But now we've created such a way better, safer space for kids like me.”

PC association president resigns

The president of the Calgary Bow PC Association says he is resigning his position because of Bill 10. 

Josh Traptow made the announcement on Twitter today. He has held the job since 2011. 

"I think there was good intentions behind Bill 10, but I think it was poorly written," he said.

Traptow says he resigned so he can speak out about the bill and not be in a conflict of interest. He said he would consider coming back if the bill no longer requires students to go through the courts, which is currently on the table as the bill is debated in the Alberta legislature.

He said many students looking to be part of a GSA are already vulnerable, so having a court challenge as the only recourse if a GSA is denied is the bill's major flaw. 

"That's not fair to make those kids go through," he said

Pride Calgary weighs in

Pride Calgary says Bill 10 doesn't go far enough to protect the rights of young Albertans. 

"Alberta's youth are under immense academic pressure at this stage in their lives, and must not be expected to seek legal action or judicial review for the simple right of supporting, and being supported by, their LGBTQA peers," said the group in a release.

They are urging MLAs to say no to the legislation and instead support Bill 202, which was a private members bill introduced by Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman earlier in the session.

Pride Calgary adds it's disheartening this is still an issue of debate.

"If the leaders of our province wish to truly tackle bullying and discrimination, they must take a leadership role for young Albertans and remove any barriers limiting their access to these support groups."

Catholic school concerns

Blakeman says the government came under pressure from Catholic school boards to make it not mandatory to allow GSAs in schools.

Blakeman’s private member’s Bill 202, which was dropped from the order paper earlier this week, would have compelled school boards to allow students to form GSAs.

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice said previously that Bill 10 creates a foundation for gay-straight alliances while addressing parental rights and respecting the jurisdiction of school boards.

"It will not make everyone happy but I think it is the right balance for Alberta."

Janet Brown, an independent pollster, said the Tories are underestimating Albertans.

"There is sympathy about gay rights across the province, and actually I think the PC caucus is a little out of step with the progressive nature of Albertans,” she said. 

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