Calgary

UCP's GSA resolution is just misunderstood, says gay conservative activist

The resolution passed by the United Conservative Party last weekend to inform parents if their child joins a gay-straight alliance at school, among other things, is misunderstood, says a gay conservative activist, after urging members to vote against it.

Harrison Fleming says Ric McIver 'caught up in a rhetorical moment' when he urged party to vote no

Harrison Fleming of LGBTory says the GSA resolution passed at the recent United Conservative Party convention is misunderstood, although he joined three MLAs in urging members to vote against it. (Canadian Press/CBC)

The resolution passed by Alberta's United Conservative Party last weekend to inform parents if their child joins a gay-straight alliance at school, among other things, is misunderstood, says a gay conservative activist, after urging members to vote against it.

"There has been an incredible amount of misinformation over the wording of this motion," Harrison Fleming told the Calgary Eyeopener on Friday.

"What they talked about is if there is content that is explicitly religious or sexual in nature, parents need to be involved in that conversation. What we saw this weekend was members say they wanted to be notified of these things, but the reality is ... GSAs are not places where this type of content is discussed. They are peer-to-peer support groups to specifically help vulnerable LGBT kids."

Fleming is with LGBTory, a national group of gay conservative activists.

Despite pleas from three MLAs, a majority of members passed a motion at their inaugural convention Sunday in Red Deer to support a parent's right to be informed when their child joins a gay-straight alliance.

The motion passed with 57 per cent support even though members were being urged to vote against it by Calgary-Hays MLA Ric McIver, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Jason Nixon, and Chestermere-Rocky View MLA Leela Aheer.

"This is about outing gay kids," McIver said Sunday, as he was jeered by the crowd. "Don't be called the Lake of Fire party, I'm begging you. This will really severely hurt our chances at winning. Don't do that to yourself."

Fleming says McIver may have misspoke.

"I think he was caught up in a rhetorical moment," Fleming said.

"I was the first person to stand up and speak against this motion. What I said is that this is redundant, it already exists in the Education Act and we need to be a party that is cognizant of the optics."

Backlash to the resolution has been swift.

A Medicine Hat bakery sent pro-LGBTQ doughnuts to a UCP MLA as a symbolic protest and conversation starter.

The Guardian, a British newspaper, weighed in with an article titled Forcibly outing LGBT children to their parents is monstrous on Thursday.

Party leader Jason Kenney said the resolution is poorly worded but only affirms existing legislation in the school act that parents must be notified if sexual or religious content is taught in the classroom. He rejected the suggestion it was about GSAs.

But the resolution as passed explicitly states the notification extends to "extracurricular activities and clubs."

Kenney said policy passed by members won't necessarily show up in the party's election platform.

Meanwhile Fleming, who is seeking the UCP nomination for Calgary-Bow, says there's still work to do.

"We are having another AGM … in February and there have been groups, groups that are supposed to be antithetical to GSAs, who have reached out to me and said, 'How can we craft the right policies to find a balance for parents and students?' And I look forward to continuing those conversations," he said.

"I believe that the concerns of these parents are fair and reasonable and a lot of the fear is based on misinformation."

LGBTory Harrison Fleming on UCP's GSA resolution 7:18

With files from Michelle Bellefontaine and the Calgary Eyeopener.