GSAs…Here we go again

Last Thursday Mr and Ms Soapbox joined hundreds of Calgarians protesting Mr Kenney’s plan to out kids who join gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in schools.  The question on everyone’s mind was why would the man who says he’s fit to govern Alberta enact legislation that increases the risk of harm to LGBTQ2S kids?

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Getting ready to visit Doug Schweitzer

Since Mr Kenney wasn’t around to give us an answer, we gathered in front of UCP candidate Doug Schweitzer’s campaign office to see if he had anything to say.  The lights were off, there was nobody home—a fitting metaphor for Mr Schweitzer after his flip flop on this issue.

So, we turned to Mr Kenney’s statement as set out in the Alberta Hansard.

But first a little background.

History

The PC government passed Bill 10 which required schools to let students set up GSAs.  GSAs are clubs that provide a safe space for LGBTQ2S and straight kids to hang out.  They are not part of the school curriculum.  Remember that, it’s important.

The NDP were concerned that Bill 10 didn’t go far enough to protect students’ privacy and passed Bill 24 to ensure students had the right to form GSAs without fear of being outed.

Mr Kenney’s supporters, people like John Carpay, say GSAs are sex clubs which indoctrinate young people to deviant behavior and have launched a law suit to shut them down.

Notwithstanding Mr Carpay’s histrionics, Mr Kenney says he supports GSAs but (and it’s a big but) if he’s elected he’ll get rid of Bill 24 which prohibits schools from outing kids who join GSAs.

Bottom line, if Mr Kenney becomes premier, students who could benefit from belonging to a GSA will be afraid to join one, lest their teachers out them to their parents.  Mr Kenney effectively nipped GSAs in the bud.  Cunning, eh?

Kenny’s rationale

Mr Kenney says outings would be “very rare” but provides no evidence to back this up.  He says outings would only deal with “very young kids or kids with unique emotional and mental-health challenges”, this ignores the fact Bill 24 doesn’t stop schools from giving notice in these situations, all it does is ensure notification is not triggered simply because a kid joins a GSA.

Mr Kenney provided other reasons for ditching Bill 24 in a statement read on his behalf in the Legislature on Nov 15, 2017 when the Bill was under debate.

Unfortunately for Mr Kenney the arguments he raises in support of his position undermine it.

He starts by obfuscating the facts.  He pretends that voluntary membership in a school club is the same as participation in mandatory school curriculum and concludes Bill 24 violates the School Act which requires parental notification of curriculum and material which “include subject-matter that deals primarily and explicitly with religion or human sexuality”.  This assumes GSAs are mandatory courses and they deal explicitly with human sexuality.  They’re not.  They’re clubs that run bake sales, create posters, host events, invite guest speakers, and do a myriad of other things.  And—say it again with me—they are not part of the mandatory school curriculum, no notification is required and Kenney’s reference to the School Act is misleading and irrelevant.

Not content with distorting Alberta law Mr Kenney cites two global proclamations to bolster his position.

He says the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states parents have the right to choose the kind of education given to their children.  Fine, but GSAs are clubs, they’re not part of the mandatory education curriculum so this argument doesn’t fly.

Digression:  Now that he raised it, I’d like to point out the Declaration is a precedent for other legislative changes:  it protects the right to a living wage (how about $15/hour?),  the right to create and join trade unions and the rights of mothers and children to special care (say for example, $25/day daycare?).  It also says these rights cannot be destroyed by the state (oh oh).

Mr Kenney then trots out the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976) which says parents are free to ensure the religious and moral education of their children conforms with their own conviction.  He doesn’t mention the purpose of the International Covenant is to protect a person’s right to be free from coercion in thought, conscience and religion in the context of war, genocide, torture, and slavery.  The International Covenant does not apply to Bill 24 because kids are not coerced into joining a school club and their parents are not prevented from providing their kids with a religious and moral education that conforms to their own beliefs.  (GSAs may result in spirited discussions around the dinner table but that’s a good thing if parents want to raise kids who aren’t mindless robots).

Given Mr Kenney’s affinity for international declarations and conventions, it’s surprising (well, maybe not) that he overlooked the UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) which states:

  • Everything a public or private institution does concerning children shall be done in the children’s best interests (it’s not in a student’s best interest to out them)
  • Children who are capable of forming their own views have the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting them (students say they don’t want to be outed)
  • Children have the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information of all kinds, and freedom of assembly, restricted only by a respect for the rights of others and the protection of national security, public order, public health or morals (students want to join GSAs)
  • Children have the right to legal protection against interference with their right of privacy and unlawful attacks on their honour and reputation (Bill 24 protects students’ privacy and should not be repealed)

Kenney’s only possible argument is one based on “morals” (3rd bullet), but he supports GSAs so he can’t possible consider them to be immoral, right?

The UN recognized an adult’s right to autonomy and self determination in 1948.  UNICEF recognized the same rights for children 41 years later.

Mr Kenney’s problem with Bill 24 is he’s 30 years behind the times (surprise) and still believes parental authority trumps kids’ rights to autonomy and privacy.

This is cruel considering the facts:  64% of LGBTQ2S students feel unsafe in their schools, the drop out rate for LGBTQ2S students is five times higher than straight students, LGBTQ2S students are three times more likely to attempt suicide than straight students, and one in three homeless youth in Canada are LGBTQ2S kids who are homelessness because they’ve rejected by their families.

RuPaul says

There’s only one response to Mr Kenney’s appalling performance on this file.  It comes from my favourite reality TV star RuPaul who dismisses drag queens who’ve lost the lip sync competition with a simple phrase…

…Sashay away, Mr Kenney, just sashay away.

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16 Responses to GSAs…Here we go again

  1. ed henderson says:

    I do not object to GSA’s and I do believe they are probably a very good thing.

    I am very very opposed to any teacher not honestly answering a parents questions about their children.
    Teachers have shown that they cannot “all” be trusted. Most can but some shouldn’t be. I would also like to suggest that those teachers who allowed non teaching acquaintances to take young students who were members of a GSA out of their school to the strangers private residence should be charged with abduction.

    • Ed, you’re right, we’ve seen examples that demonstrate not all teachers can be trusted, any professional who breaks trust with those he/she is supposed to serve (whether it’s a priest, a doctor, a lawyer, whatever) must be disciplined and if necessary ousted from the profession. I have no information about the example you gave but I looked at the ATA guide on GSAs and could not find any examples where it is suggested such an activity would be appropriate. The only examples of activities that involve leaving the school are things like after-school field trips to museums and art galleries and volunteering at food banks and the like.
      I note that one suggested activity is inviting the parents to a meeting. Makes sense to me.
      Here’s the link to the ATA document: https://www.teachers.ab.ca/…/ATA/…/PD-80-6%20GSA-QSA%20Guide%202016.pdf

  2. Fred from BC says:

    Risk of harm? Explain, please.

    • Fred the “risk of harm” is the possibility that an LBGTQ2S kid who is outed by the school will be subjected to physical and mental abuse and thrown out of the house. Examples of mental abuse include conversion therapy and exorcism to get rid of gay demons. Kids know their parents better than anyone does, they probably have a good reason for not wanting to tell their folks and they certainly don’t need a teacher or school administrator outing them before they’re ready.
      The debate about Bill 10 and Bill 24 is recorded in Hansard. It’s full of sad stories. When Danielle Smith was the leader of the Wildrose opposition she talked about a young girl who told her she’d been beaten by her father and thrown out of the house when he found out she was gay. Another MLA told the story about a girl in small town Alberta who told her teacher she thought she was gay and the next day people were talking about it in the coffee shop.

  3. J.E. Molnar says:

    Just to add to the history hopper — a few quotes that now look startlingly out of place:

    “It’s not my intention to get into any contentious social issues in our platform.” – Jason Kenney

    “I’ve been clear for well over 2½ years, we have no interest in getting into divisive hot-button issues like the NDP loves to do.” – Jason Kenney

    “This is about outing gay kids. Don’t be called the Lake of Fire party, I’m begging you.” – Ric McIver, UCP MLA (at founding convention)

    Mr. Kenney is staying mainly mum now “because he’s been on the wrong side of history so many times.” – Doug Schweitzer, UCP candidate & leadership aspirant during debates

    “Mr. Kenney has been absolutely consistent since he launched his campaign in the summer of 2016: He’s focused on getting the Alberta economy back on track and will not legislate on hot-button social issues.” – Blaise Boehmer, Jason Kenney campaign spokesman

    • J.E. Wow, I don’t know who is worse Kenney who has no interest in “divisive hot-button issues” and barges into them anyway or Schweitzer who called out Kenney for being on the “wrong side of history” and then climbed down into the gutter to join him.

  4. Anon says:

    I normally post with my real name, but because of the nature of this post I am going anonymously this time.

    I have an early 20s nephew who is my nephew because he got tired of being my niece. By the time Sally was five I suspected her orientation was different. Not really being aware of the concept of trans-gender, I suspected lesbian. Sally seemed unhappy most of the time, and between the boy’s clothing, short hair and a preference for ‘masculine’ activities, gradually my suspicion evolved to transgender, to the point that when he finally came out I felt real relief that I could finally quit worrying about accidentally referring to her as a boy.

    Fred’s parents had to beg him, with absolute assurances of unconditional love, to include him in his secret so they could support him through his difficult time. By that time he had several trans-gendered friends, many of whom had been kicked out of their family home. No wonder poor Fred was terrified to out himself to his parents!

    Today Fred is much happier, and is still living with his folks. There is no doubt in my mind his life would have been much easier if a GSA had existed in his school, and given the experience of some of his friends, the secrecy imposed by the NDP is an absolute necessity.

    Jason Kenney talks about how his policy would only allow teachers to inform parents when it was in the best interests of the child. Sadly, in a fundamentalist school the teacher could claim it was the in the best interest of the child to inform the parents so they could enroll him/her in conversion therapy before he/she permanently damaged his soul.

    • Dear Anon, thank you for sharing this poignant story. Kudos to Fred’s parents for their consistent and compassionate love. Kudos to the rest of Fred’s family, people like you who understand how difficult this journey was for him and kudos to Fred for having the courage to walk this path. It must have been terrifying.
      Anon, please contact me if you run into difficulty posting under your real moniker. I’ll do whatever I can to sort it out.

  5. Bob Raynard says:

    Hi Susan,

    I really appreciate all the work that you do on this blog, and I also appreciate you giving the opportunity for me to add my two cents worth to the issue.

    • Thanks Bob. I welcome your two cents…especially on social issues that Kenney says are not part of the dialogue. Remember when he said “In order to be a compassionate caring society, we must be prosperous first.” Well, given his defence of Mark Smith, who said homosexual love is not real love and implied there’s a connection between homosexuals and pedophiles, I think we can amend that statement to read: “Free market rules, and sinners burn in hell “.

  6. Jerrymacgp says:

    Kenney is also employing a stealth tactic to roll back protections for GSAs in schools … rather than openly repealing Bill 24, he is proposing proclamation of the stale, mouldering PC-era Education Act, which was not amended by Bill 24. (Too bad the NDP didn’t just repeal the Education Act while they had the chance … ). The GSA protections in the Education Act predate the NDP government, and are inferior; for example, they do not apply to private schools, even though 70% of their per-student funding is public dollars.

    • Jerrymacgp, this is a very important point. Kenney’s modus operandi is stealth. He deployed Jeff Callaway to attack Brian Jean in the UCP leadership race so he could stay above the fray. He’s allows anti-abortionists and homophobes like UCP candidate Mark Smith and UCP supporter John Carpay to carry his far right social agenda to his base and then has the nerve to complain that Notley is running a negative campaign. It’s not a negative campaign when it’s a verbatim report of what he or his candidates have said. As the leader of the UCP Kenney could distance himself from these candidates and their remarks, instead he rushes to their defence. Notley always said this election would be about which leader has the character and values to be fit to be premier. Well, it sure ain’t Kenney.

  7. GoinFawr says:

    Temporary Foreign Worker Program + Professed dislike of Immigrants = Seriously, WTF Kenney?

    What Kenney’s Orwellian duckspeak sounds like to me:

    ‘I don’t like foreigners, I just like the cheap, easily exploitable labour they represent.’

    It is just so painfully rich when he incorrectly blames the Notley Gov’t for jobs lost to a drop in the price of oil, considering Mr.Kenney personally saw to (how many?) hundreds of thousands of locals losing skilled employment to the TFWP.

    A LOT of those jobs lost are oil patch positions too, so how on earth does his base fail to do the simple math on that one? I think perhaps they might want to lay off inhaling the hydrocarbons that butter their bread.

    Hint to those who watched the film FUBAR 16 times: if you actually WORK (“Give ‘Er!”) for a living and expect a decent return for your time, Kenney is oh-so-obviously not for you.

    ps.
    I love FUBAR

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Well the reason it is not necessary do any math is because Jason Kenney does not even think of any reasoning. To him it makes money to exploit cheap labour, and kicking them out as undesirable after is the perfect sequence. He does not care about foreign workers and I do not think he cares about Canadian workers either.
      He cares about Jason Kenney and whatever it takes to get what he wants. What happened to Bryan Jean is just what needs to happen for Jason Kenney to be premier and if more is necessary more will be done.
      Anyone that sees Jason Kenney anymore that this is dreaming.

      • Carlos, I agree with this characterization. Interestingly, Kenney supporters are just like Kenney. I met one the other day when I was door knocking. This guy thought Notley was smarter than Kenney and a much better leader but he was voting for Kenney because he wanted a lower personal income tax rate. He said it was a crime he had to pay 50% taxes (actually the combined provincial and federal rate is 48% and that’s the MARGINAL rate, not a flat rate on every penny he earns). I said Kenney hasn’t promised to reduce personal income taxes. He said Kenney would reduce them some day. I talked about taxes paying for education and health care. He said he’s paying for his kids’ education and he goes to the US for medical care. It was pretty pointless continuing the conversation because this guy’s focus was “me, me, me, damn the rest of you”.
        It’s not every day that you run smack into greed but when you do it takes the wind out of you. Awful man.

    • GoinFawr: interesting point re: Kenney’s TFWP. The UCP policy document takes a different approach to immigrants, it’s one his “knuckledragging supporters” (to use a Charles Adler term) haven’t figured out yet.
      Kenney will create an “Alberta Advantage Immigration Strategy” to address what he calls the “doctors driving taxis” syndrome. He’s setting up a number of programs to give immigrants a leg up in finding jobs that match their qualifications. These include financial support to start businesses, immediate work permits followed by permanent residency if they do start new businesses, pushing professional and trade associations to recognize their credentials more quickly, matching immigrant professionals with public service mentors, and so on. I’m not saying any of this is a bad thing, but Albertans who thought Kenney was going to give them jobs first are in for a shock.

      PS I googled FUBAR and learned it’s a 2002 mockumentary film based on the lives of two lifelong friends who live out their lives drinking beer. Sounds like what I’ll be doing if Kenney gets elected!

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