Alberta premier urges UCP MLAs to 'stand on the right side' of GSA issue
9 MLAs, including 8 from UCP caucus, vote against Bill 24 in second reading
Premier Rachel Notley urged members of the United Conservative Party to stand on the right side of history by voting in favour of a bill that would make it illegal for schools to tell parents their children joined a gay-straight alliance.
"The bill will protect the lives of our most vulnerable citizens too young to vote, many of them, but not without a voice in these halls, in this room," Notley told the legislature Wednesday. "So join us. Support this bill. Support gay kids. Support GSAs. And be proud saying that you did so."
On Monday, UCP Leader Jason Kenney said his caucus had decided to vote against the bill. He said teachers should still have the ability to talk to parents if it is in the child's best interest to do so.
- UCP opposes GSA bill banning parental notification
- Schools can't out GSA members to their parents under proposed Alberta law
Despite this position, the UCP maintains their MLAs have a free vote on the issue.
The bill is in second reading, an early stage of the debate. Some UCP MLAs have spoken against the bill, while others, like Leela Aheer, who is known for her support of LGBTQ people, said they hadn't come to a decision.
Some struggling with consciences: Notley
Aheer, MLA for Chestermere-Rocky View, expressed her support for GSAs, and said her son was part of one. During debate Wednesday afternoon, she raised a number of questions for the education minister in hopes of clarifying the legislation.
Sensing that Aheer and others in the caucus were wavering, Notley said she knew some UCP MLAs were struggling with their conscience and urged them to do what they think is right.
"To those members, I would suggest that what you should do is stand on the right side of this issue," she said. "So stand with us and support this bill. Your grandchildren and their children will be proud that you did."
She went through Kenney's objections to the bill, point by point, disputing each one. In the end, she said Kenney's arguments were red herrings that did not stand up to scrutiny.
"You believe that adults have the right to out gay kids against their will," Notley added.
The bill passed second reading by a vote of 44 to 9. The MLAs who voted against the bill were UCP MLAs Drew Barnes, Ric McIver, Richard Gottfried, Prab Gill, Scott Cyr, Glen Van Dijken, David Schneider, Ron Orr and independent MLA Derek Fildebrandt.
Brian Jean absent from vote
Neither Aheer or former Wildrose Leader Brian Jean were in the chamber for the vote.
The bill will now move into the next stage of debate, committee of the whole.
GSAs are after-school clubs where LGBTQ and straight students can hang out, eat pizza and talk. The clubs are seen as a safe space for youth who are struggling with their sexual identity to talk to their peers. In some cases, these talks can give students the courage to approach their parents.
Some students face a real danger of being thrown out of the house by their parents, some bill supporters say.
Experts say GSAs also combat bullying as they give LGBTQ students a chance to forge friendships with other LGBTQ and straight students.