Premier Jim Prentice counters Bill 202 with Tory version
Bill 202 'unfair to us and to those we represent,' premier says
Premier Jim Prentice says his government is introducing new legislation to counter Bill 202, a private member’s bill compelling school boards to allow students to form gay-straight alliances (GSA).
The goal of the bill is to help protect LGBT students from bullying.
Prentice said he is introducing his own bill to deal with an issue he says has become “unnecessarily divisive” and pits beliefs against each other.
"Bill 202 asks us to cast aside our constituents’ beliefs in parental rights, in the autonomy of school boards, in order to support GSAs," he said. "It’s unfair to us and to those we represent."
The government bill — which is now being drafted — would allow students barred by schools from forming gay straight alliances to seek legal recourse.
The bill will amend the Alberta Bill of Rights to make equality for LGBT community “clear and unambiguous” by explicitly adding sexual orientation to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination, Prentice said.
The bill will also reinforce commitment to parental rights, he said.
The contentious section 11.1, which allows parents to take their children out of classroom discussion about sexual orientation, sexuality and religion, would be moved from the Alberta Human Rights Act to the School and Education Acts.
Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman believes that Prentice is bending to the wishes of people who homeschool their children.
"GSAs are still not guaranteed to be able to go ahead unless the student or their parent is willing to fight this all the way to the courts," she said.
"So why does one group get all kinds of things enshrined for them and the other group will ultimately have to go to the courts?
"I had no intention of dividing anybody and I haven’t tried to. But this certainly sets it out."
Blakeman said she doesn’t understand how accommodating for sexual minority students has an effect on any other group.
Parents can already take their children out of classrooms and already have religious freedom under the Charter and the Alberta Human Rights Act, she said.