Saskatchewan

Pride parade participants stress need for gay-straight alliances

Many who attended the pride parade yesterday say a gay-straight alliance would have helped them immensely as they navigated high school.

NDP calling for legislation to require schools to create the clubs

Hailee Fluter (left) and Shyleen Jones-McDonald (right) both say gay-straight alliances should be mandatory in schools. (Arielle Zerr/CBC News)

The biggest pride parade in Regina's history happened in the city's downtown on Sunday.

Hundreds of people, dressed in bright colours, marched in support and solidarity with the LGBT community. Many of whom also voiced support of mandatory gay-straight alliance (GSA) legislation. 

The NDP has been calling for the government to pass a bill that gives students the right to form GSAs for some time, and proposed it as part of an anti-bullying bill in April. 

Shyleen Jones-McDonald was at the parade to support her friends. She believes GSAs should be mandatory in all schools.

"There's a lot of bullying that goes around with being gay or being bisexual, which makes people scared to come out because of the fact they're afraid people are going to judge them," she said. 

Her friend Hailee Fluter, who went to Cochrane High School in Regina, said the gay-straight alliance at her school made a huge difference. 

"(The students) all kind of understood how everybody has different sexualities and they can't really control it," Fluter said, adding she can't think of anyone who was bullied for their sexuality while she attended there.

The Pride Club at Sheldon Williams Collegiate was one of the dozens of groups in Saturday's pride parade in Regina. (Arielle Zerr/CBC News)

Sarah Kriska, who attends Sheldon Williams Collegiate told CBC News the GSA at her school has help students build confidence. 

"We've had more people show that they are openly bisexual or anything," the 14-year-old said. "It's given them a lot more confidence in speaking to their parents about it and it really boosts their confidence."

Kriska marched in the parade with the Regina high school's "pride club" which she said is basically a GSA with a different name. 

When the topic was brought up in the Saskatchewan Legislature in May, NDP Leader Cam Broten said the onus shouldn't be on students to reach out for help. 

"This is something where this government needs to set the bar to clearly show that this is the expectation," he said. "This is something that should be enshrined by law."

But the government doesn't feel legislation is needed, because the GSAs are provided when students request one. 

"It's written policy," Education Minister Don Morgan said at the time. "The concern we have is whether there is a school division that isn't doing it."

with files from the Canadian Press and CBC's Arielle Zerr

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