Edmonton

'It takes the whole point out of a GSA,' teen says of UCP motion

Two opposing views on Alberta's gay-straight alliances got a lot of attention on Sunday — one in a publicized political motion and the other, in a quiet government-sponsored awards ceremony.

UCP voted in favour of a resolution in support of a parent's right to be informed when their child joins a GSA

In the highly debated Bill 24, the NDP government made it illegal for schools to inform parents when their children join gay-straight alliances. (Canadian Press)

Two opposing views on Alberta's gay-straight alliances got a lot of attention on Sunday — one in a publicized political motion and the other in a quiet government-sponsored awards ceremony. 

Alberta's United Conservative Party voted 57 per cent in favour of a resolution in support of a parent's right to be informed when their child joins a gay-straight alliance. 

On the same day, Alberta's NDP government gave 15-year-old GSA advocate Noah Nicholls a Great Kids Award for his work in promoting LGBTQ2S+ rights.

"I can't think of something worse than me not getting to tell people myself," Nicholls said about coming out.

Noah Nicholls is an advocate for LGBTQ2S+ youth. (Noah Nicholls/Twitter)

After joining a GSA at a Calgary high school last year, Nicholls said he gained the confidence to start telling his close friends, his relatives, then his parents that he is gay.

It took nine months.

"It's about when you're ready. It should be up to you," he told CBC News Sunday.

Nicholls, a secretary with the New Democratic Youth of Alberta in Calgary-Northwest, said he was surprised by how many UCP members supported the motion.

He didn't mince words on social media when the vote was reported. 

Danielle Larivee, Alberta's Minister of Children's Services, gave out the Great Kids Awards Sunday to 16 recipients at the Fantasyland Hotel in West Edmonton Mall, noting Nicholls is a strong advocate for LGBTQ2S+ youth.

She said she's disappointed that many Albertans don't agree that vulnerable youth should have the right to reveal their sexual orientation when they're ready.

"If they haven't disclosed it, then they have a reason and they deserve all the respect of waiting until they're comfortable and willing and feel safe disclosing," she said.

Children's Services Minister Danielle Larivee handed out 16 Great Kid Awards at a ceremony Sunday at West Edmonton Mall. (CBC)

Larivee said there are many cases in which families abandon their children and kick them out of their home for being gay. 

The NDP passed Bill 24 last fall, making it illegal for schools to out children to their parents.  

Following the publicized debate, leader Jason Kenney said the resolutions passed at the UCP's first convention won't necessarily be part of the party's election platform.

Nicholls said the UCP's position is tantamount to outing gay kids.

"I think it takes the whole point out of a GSA," he said. "For me, it has been to grow and be comfortable with myself."

Nicholls said the existence of GSAs isn't widely advertised at schools. He didn't find his club until he was 14.

"It's just letting kids know there are safe places to talk about things," he said.

Nicholls said he thinks school administrators should do more to let students know about GSAs.

About the Author

Natasha Riebe

Journalist

Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.