Gay-straight alliance issue may be forgotten, youth council fears

The Edmonton Youth Council wants the province to revise Bill 10, a controversial bill about student-led gay-straight alliances, before the premier calls an election.

City council to debate standing officially against proposed Bill 10

Edmonton Youth Council chair Claire Edwards said provincial action on gay-straight-alliances is needed now. The council is calling for more consultation and an overhaul of Bill 10 before the next provincial election. (CBC)

The Edmonton Youth Council wants the province to revise Bill 10, a controversial bill about student-led gay-straight alliances, before the premier calls an election rather than let the bill die.

“If an election is called and Bill 10 is never brought back to the floor that would be a huge disappointment,” said council chair Claire Edwards.

Bill 10 was introduced by the Progressive Conservative government to supersede a private member’s bill that would make gay-straight alliances mandatory in schools where students want them.

Bill 10 allows schools to say no to students who want the anti-bullying groups.

The Edmonton Youth Council usually advises councillors on civic matters, but Edwards said the provincial issue is too important to ignore.

Gay-straight-alliances are proven to save lives of LGBTQ teens, she said, and Bill 10 could impede students' access to those groups.

She asked the mayor Monday to pass on the youth council’s concerns to the province.

“We want students at the end of the day to be able to form a gay-straight alliance, call it a gay-straight alliance, and feel safe in their schools,” she said.

Premier Jim Prentice put the bill on hold in December after a massive public outcry. He said he would wait for more consultation before putting the bill back on the floor. Edwards said she has not seen any evidence of consultation since then and calls the delay troubling.

“Right now there are youth who are unsafe in their schools and the status quo is unacceptable,” she said.

Coun. Ben Henderson supports the youth council’s position. He hopes council will take an official stance against the bill as well.

“I think there’s an argument that we’re wandering in to two other jurisdictions, one is which is the school boards and the other one which is the province,” Henderson said. “But we pay the price of this work not being done.”

He said the city should have a voice in matters that could lead to increased cost of policing and homelessness, such as bullying in schools. 

Councillors will debate whether or not to take a stance on the bill at next week’s council meeting.

NDP call for action on GSAs

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley also called for more action on Bill 10 before a potential spring election on Monday. She said the premier must reveal where the government stands on the bill before Albertans go to the polls.

“I’m calling on Prentice and the PCs to stop hiding and tell Albertans what they’re going to do to protect LGBTQ youth in our schools,” Notley said in a statement.

She said she wants the government to act fast to revise the bill when the legislature resumes on Mar. 10.


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