Pastor ordered to allow GSAs at 2 Edmonton-area schools responds through lawyer

An Alberta pastor ordered by the province to allow gay-straight alliances in his two Edmonton-area schools has replied with a letter from his lawyer just hours before the deadline.

'Like a toddler testing its parents' says mom, as defiance to new Alberta law continues

Independent Baptist Christian Education Society board chair Brian Coldwell has sent a letter to Education Minister David Eggen through his lawyer.

An Alberta pastor ordered by the province to allow gay-straight alliances in his two Edmonton-area schools has replied with a letter from his lawyer.

The move from Pastor Brian Coldwell came Friday afternoon, hours before the deadline set by Education Minister David Eggen for the schools to comply with the province's LGBTQ legislation.

"Earlier today, we received a letter from Coldwell's legal counsel, which we will be reviewing," said Alberta Education press secretary Larissa Liepins. "Minister Eggen will have more to say about it, and next steps, on Monday."

Coldwell, chairman of the Baptist Christian Education Society, was ordered by Eggen to provide written assurance that he will allow students in his Edmonton-area schools — the Meadows Baptist Academy and the Harvest Baptist Academy — to form gay-straight-alliances, as legislated by the province.
Education Minister David Eggen said he will review the letter and speak about it Monday. (CBC)

Coldwell could not be reached for comment. But earlier he told CBC he would not implement the policies and accused Eggen of wielding "dictatorial power" on the issue of LGBTQ rights.

"And there is no way under heaven I'm going to allow gay activists to come in here and basically undermine our ministries and our religious freedoms or confuse and corrupt our children," he said.

Coldwell's response is just the latest incident suggesting resistance is growing from some school boards to the province's legislation and guidelines to address the rights of LGBTQ students.

On Sept. 5, Eggen said an initial review of the Edmonton Catholic school board's LGBTQ policy had raised questions that were being addressed by his department.

But the Edmonton board, which has begun an overall review of its policies, bylaws, practices and protocols, has no plans to revisit its new sexual orientation and gender identity policy, said chair Marilyn Bergstra.

"There has been no discussion by the Board to look at this policy as part of the policy review" wrote Bergstra in an emailed statement on Friday. "Should there be a need to review this policy in the future, the Board would discuss the merits of doing so, as they would with all policies."

Grande Prairie-area board calls for review

Earlier this week near Grande Prairie, parents also successfully petitioned for a review of Peace Wapiti Public School Division's new Safe and Caring Learning Safe Environment policy.

The policy and corresponding administrative procedures outline in detail the rights of LGBTQ students when it comes to restrooms, sports teams and privacy.

But a vote has led to the formation of a committee that will review concerns around discrimination of religious-based parenting, as well as parents' rights to be notified about their children's issues regarding sexual and gender identity.

People are starting to push back and call the minister's bluff.- Mother of transgender student

The review will also look at balancing the rights of transgender and other students regarding restroom access.

The question around bathrooms is what set off the entire debate.

In May 2015, a mother's fight for her seven-year-old transgender daughter to use the female washroom at an Edmonton Catholic school became embroiled in controversy.

Seventeen months later, that mother told CBC News it appears school boards are still testing the minister in terms of compliance.

"There has been no firm response from him as of yet, and so you're starting to see the disdain from parents and boards that don't want to fully comply with the guidelines that weren't mandatory," said the mom, who CBC is not naming to protect the identity of her daughter.

"It's just like a toddler testing its parents," she said, repeating her call for mandatory provincial policy. "They're going to see how far they can go before they actually receive a punishment. People are starting to push back and call the minister's bluff."

andrea.huncar@cbc.ca           @andreahuncar