Alberta government-funded GSA website removes links after complaints of 'sexually graphic' content

A government-funded website to support gay-straight alliances has removed several links after complaints from an Edmonton blogger.

Website meant to connect LGBTQ students with community resources, says administrator

Blogger Theresa Ng criticized a provincially funded GSA website for posting links to Facebook pages that post sexually explicit articles. (CBC)

A government-funded website meant to support students from elementary to high school levels in gay-straight alliances removed several links Tuesday after complaints from an Edmonton blogger.

A day earlier, activist Theresa Ng posted a blog and video questioning why the Alberta GSA Network website provided some links that direct students to social media sites that post sexually graphic content.

Ng said one Facebook page called Fruit Loop — a voluntary arts and cultural organization —  posted some articles about sexual practices and "naked men being flogged," and included articles such as "These Kinky Sex Toys Are Guaranteed To Spice Up Your Bedroom This Valentine's Day" and "Super Practical Sex Positions Everyone Can Try at Home."

The GSA website is run by the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta. By early afternoon on Tuesday, the ISMSS had removed Fruit Loop and other links from the website.

"The link that has raised concerns from parents this morning is being taken down by ISMSS after discussing the matter with the minister's office," said Alberta Education press secretary Lindsay Harvey.

Harvey said the website was paid for by a portion of a one-time $30,000 provincial grant.

Kris Wells, faculty director of the ISMSS, said he first learned about concerns regarding content on the GSA website from news releases. The ISMSS has reviewed all external weblinks and removed community links, he said.
Kris Wells said the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services removed community links to the Alberta GSA Network website Tuesday. (CBC)

"It's unfortunate that we were not contacted directly," said Wells. "It's always a challenge when you're listing community organizations and you're not responsible for the content that's posted. And this is the first time anyone's ever raised a concern with any of the content on the Alberta GSA network website, which is a great website and resources for students, parents and teachers across the province.

"The challenge is creating hysteria or controversy when there really isn't one. The intention of the website is to simply connect individuals and students and teachers to the available LGBTQ resources in their community."

But the removal of the links did not satisfy Ng.

"The fact remains that ISMSS did not properly vet their links and community supports, which only proves their lack of competence when it comes to being trusted with the safety of our K-12 children," Ng wrote in an updated blog post. "Why is it up to citizens to vet these government funded and recommended resources?"

Police complaint

Donna Trimble, with Parents For Choice, filed a complaint Tuesday with Edmonton police.

"I think it's really important for us to find out what the boundaries are with regards to what type of content can be provided to K-12 students," Trimble told CBC News.

It's not the first time Ng and Trimble have taken aim at measures introduced for sexual- and gender-minority students. They also spoke out late last year about a toolkit introduced by the Alberta Teachers' Association, meant to make classrooms more inclusive, and Bill 10, which legislated GSAs in the classroom.

"I think that it's really important to let the Alberta public know that this government-funded Alberta GSA network has been providing sexually graphic material to K-to-12 students," said Trimble. 

But Wells said "these kinds of attacks just really hurt LGBTQ youth and serve to try to polarize conversation rather than focusing in on what the intent of the website is ... supporting gay-straight alliances across schools and communities in Alberta."