Rejection of Gay-Straight Alliances motion shows some Alberta MLAs need a reality check

Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Government to introduce legislation, like Manitoba’s and Ontario’s, requiring all school boards to develop policies to support students who want to lead and establish gay-straight alliance activities and organizations, using any name that is consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive, welcoming, and respectful for all students regardless of sexuality, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

It was a simple motion introduced on the floor of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly on April 7, 2014 that would help create safer environments for students in schools. Nineteen Liberal, New Democrat, and Progressive Conservative MLAs voted in favour of the motion, but it failed after 31 PC and Wildrose MLAs stood up and voted against it.

Kent Hehr MLA Calgary-Buffalo
Kent Hehr

Motion 503, introduced by Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr, was not a piece of binding legislation, it was a symbolic message of that all students, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, can be welcomed and accepted in Alberta’s education system.

Creating safe and supportive environments for all students, including LGBTQ youth who may face discrimination in and outside of school, should be something that is encouraged by MLAs.

Mr. Hehr’s motion undoubtably would have made some social conservatives uncomfortable, but it would have ultimately helped drag some of Alberta’s more stodgy school boards into the 21st century. The motion would not have forced any school board to form student-led gay-straight alliances, but it would have compelled the elected boards to accept the existence of the groups if students in their schools chose to organize them.

Alberta MLA Vote Gay Straight Alliances Vote Motion 503
A map showing the constituencies represented by MLAs who voted in favour (blue) and against (red) Motion 503. White indicates MLAs who were not present for the vote. (Click to enlarge)

Passage of this motion would have sent a strong message that tolerance and acceptance are priorities Alberta’s provincial legislators.

Anti-bullying minister Sandra Jansen voted in favour but Education minister Jeff Johnson voted against it.

Missing from the vote were Premier Dave Hancock and NDP leader Brian Mason, who both later said they would have voted in favour had they been in the Assembly. Wildrose opposition leader Danielle Smith was not present for the vote and it is not clear if she would have voted differently than her party’s MLAs.

The divided PC government caucus also missed an opportunity to send a clear message that they embrace 21st century values by singling out the opposition Wildrose as the only party to unanimously vote against the motion – and remind Albertans of the infamous Lake of Fire.  And for the Wildrose, a vote for the motion, even by one or two of that party’s MLAs, would have done a lot of demonstrate the party is more moderate on social issues than its opponents claim.

In total, 36 MLAs were absent from the vote (minus the Speaker, who abstains from votes of the Assembly).

Voted in Favour: 19
Deron Bilous (NDP)
Laurie Blakeman (LIB)
Neil Brown (PC)
Pearl Calahasen (PC)
Cal Dallas (PC)
Alana DeLong (PC)
David Eggen (NDP)
Kyle Fawcett (PC)
Kent Hehr (LIB)
Ken Hughes (PC)
Sandra Jansen (PC)
Heather Klimchuk (PC)
Jason Luan (PC)
Thomas Luksazuk (PC)
Rachel Notley (NDP)
Don Scott (PC)
Raj Sherman (LIB)
David Swann (LIB)
Teresa Woo-Paw (PC)
Voted against: 31
Moe Amery (PC)
Rob Anderson (WR)
Drew Barnes (WR)
Gary Bikman (WR)
Robin Campbell (PC)
Ron Casey (PC)
Christine Cusanelli (PC)
Ian Donovan (WR)
David Dorward (PC)
Wayne Drysdale (PC)
Jacquie Fenske (PC)
Rick Fraser (PC)
Yvonne Fritz (PC)
Hector Goudreau (PC)
Jeff Johnson (PC)
Linda Johnson (PC)
Maureen Kubinec (PC)
Genia Leskiw (PC)
Bruce McAllister (WR)
Everett McDonald (PC)
Diana McQueen (PC)
Frank Oberle (PC)
Bridget Pastoor (PC)
Dave Rodney (PC)
Bruce Rowe (WR)
Shayne Saskiw (WR)
Richard Starke (PC)
Rick Strankman (WR)
Kerry Towle (WR)
George VanderBurg (PC)
Greg Weadick (PC)

29 thoughts on “Rejection of Gay-Straight Alliances motion shows some Alberta MLAs need a reality check”

  1. Ironic isn’t it. It was just a few short months ago when the gay pride flag was flying proudly over the Alberta Legislature during the Olympics, in protest of Russia’s alleged “anti-gay” laws.

  2. “Wildrose opposition leader Danielle Smith was not present for the vote and it is not clear if she would have voted differently than her party’s MLAs.”

    Thankfully Dani has removed all doubt:

    “I would have voted against the motion as well, because I see this as very much an issue of local control, local autonomy for our school boards,” Smith said. “It’s very clear that our school boards are taking seriously the issue of bullying across the board, including gay and lesbian students.”

    http://www.edmontonjournal.com/Critics+slam+Wildrose+after+straight+alliance+motion+voted+down/9716088/story.html

  3. Smith is correct, actually. Let the individual school boards decide. If the province is going to dictate this along with all the other aspects of educational administration, then what’s the point of having local school boards?

  4. This shows how out of touch the Wildrose are. Voting against allowing gay-straight alliances. Really? From listening to interviews from students involved in these alliances this is the best way to stop bullying. The Wildrose defence is bs, the best way to stop bullying is to empower students to do so.

  5. The hypocrisy of these elected hires is astonishing.

    I am glad you have published the list of shame for us. We can now identify— who among the Tories and Wildrosies— have no sort of backbone and will simply pander to the ignorant citizens they represent.

    The failure of my MLA –Mr. Hancock to show up to vote is a salutary indication to voters in Riverbend that the well educated representative for mummies in this constituency has no balls. I am ashamed to have voted for him.

    The failure of Ms. Wildrosie to get her party out of the Stone Age is perhaps not so surprising. They are not fast learners. The first dump by voters in the last provincial election was not enough to convince them that the majority of citizens in Alberta are fairly broad minded. We might be fiscally prudent and hate waste of our tax dollars but we don’t care who loves whom as long as they are loving and not hating.

    I think it is time to remind our MLAs that they represent all of us and not the narrow minded bigots from the past eras of hate, prejudice and infantile thinking.

  6. Hehr’s motion was a Trojan horse and any argument that merely “urging” the government to consider enacting a binding law is not advocating a binding law is disingenuous, to say the least. To his credit, Hehr did get the talking point he clearly set out to get, but I doubt the government’s unwillingness to entertain the notion of further cramming the agenda of a special interest group down the throats of Albertans is actually going to cost them any support.

  7. I am voting Liberal. We need an inclusive society that is moderate and with the times of today and that will instill human rights values, thank you Mrs. Ali

  8. A couple of points:
    1. I was present in November 2012 when school board trustees from across the province debated a motion at the fall meeting of the ASBA, and finally rejected a proposal from Edmonton Public Schools that would protect gay students from bullying and discrimination. I have never been so ashamed of my colleagues. This is why this should have passed in the legislature, because boards cannot be trusted to uphold human rights.
    2. “cramming the agenda of a special interest group down the throats of Albertans” So, the victims of bullying are now a special interest group? Nice, Alberta, nice.

  9. “so victims of bullying are now a special interest group”

    Not them per se but those for whom they are a useful tool to accomplish broader objectives. Why did Hehr’s motion not urge the government to force school boards to compel schools to form “jock/non-jock alliances” – are other forms of bullying less worthy of state coercion?

  10. bza, the WRA didn’t vote against allowing GSAs. They voted against a motion that mandates all school districts develop policies and support students in the creation of GSAs. School districts can do these things regardless of the failure of the motion to pass.
    If residents of a given school district want their school board to develop policies and support students in the creation of GSAs, they will elect trustee candidates who support that initiative. That’s how it’s supposed to work, not a top-down decree.

  11. I agree with the fact that we, or at least I, didn’t vote for a smaller government attitude to force public level moral majority at the school district level. I’m sorry some of you want the government to take control of every facet of your lives but I do not. Most of the people I know are tolerant and protective of all the different interest groups we encounter, the world is changing in regards to all lifestyle options out there but let’s leave that to the role of educating and not singling out. I want my government to build roads and protect rights and the constitution, let’s Stop forcing this issue down everybody’s throat and simply let it assume its comfortable integration or we will start building resentment. I have 4 family members and friends who choose this lifestyle and none of them feels threatened to live their lifestyle.

  12. “I have 4 family members and friends who choose this lifestyle and none of them feels threatened to live their lifestyle”. Choosing the “lifestyle” Wow! When did you choose to be heterosexual.

    Do you have any idea what it is like for youth to feel unsafe in a school and be who they truly are? Look at the suicide rates of lgbtq teens. As a high school counselor I ashamed at the message boards (in 2012 as stated above) and now the government have sent: YOU ARE NOT VALUED OR WORTH PROTECTING. The religious schools are certainly not promoting God’s love of all people. Has anyone heard the Pope? His message of love and valuing all humans is not being heard? Ashamed and sad.

  13. I am pretty sure that it is not local school board’s duty, authority, power, (whatever word you want to use) to single out a group of students and supress them, to make them second class. This motion would have sent a very positive and supportive message. Ultimatley I ask this: what harm would passing this motion have done? To whom?

  14. I don’t doubt that LGBTQ suicide rates are higher than the norm and always will be as people internally come to accept who they are. I am gay and young and I feel it isn’t society that plays the less accepting role anymore. I have never felt “invaluable or not worth protecting” at any time so I don’t know where some people get off throwing the onus on the government to mandate some forced committee to single me out and make me feel better. Thank you anyway, but as a councillor you seem out of touch to the real issue, self acceptance.

  15. I’ve been mulling over this debate and trying to understand why people would vote against it. WRP doesn’t surprise me in the least and I’m really proud of the PCs who stepped up.

    I think the most ironic thing is that the regions in Alberta that NEED this Motion and support are the regions that NEED GSAs more than anyone. Edmonton Public School Board has made it very clear that all staff and students in EPSB regardless of gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, et al, has the school boards support.

    Unfortunately, some rural school boards have a LONG way to go.

    My suggestion with all of this is if you are in a region that is unfriendly towards your LGTBQ community, learn how you can get involved, volunteer with your local pride centre (if there is one) and become an ally for students who want to learn how to start a GSA and outreach.

  16. if they want one then the students can have one but it does not need Government sanction in order to start one. Even schools do not need to be involved. This is not a top down issue, If you want to do this fine the rest of us do bot need to know.

  17. Why are you letting Brian Mason off the hook. Why wasn’t he there to vote? If it was important to him he would have been there. I have lost a lot of respect for Brian Mason for not standing up and voting for what he claims to believe in.

    Also, why don’t you print the names of all of those who did not vote. It is a very common practice for politicians to avoid voting on contentious issues and stay under the radar. There are 87 MLA’s and if 19 voted in favour of the motion it means that 68 didn’t. It isn’t just those that voted against that caused it to fail, again if it was important to them they would have been there. Anyone can say afterwards that they would have voted for it, but they didn’t take the time to do it. They were hiding so they weren’t on the record.

  18. Shawn Smith, each person has his/her own journey…presumptuous to think everyone is like you. I am a female with a wife, we have a son. I honor your journey but it is not the same as everyone else.

  19. If you were not there to vote then you voted against the motion.
    It did flush out the true regressive conservatives.
    To use “leave it to the the school Boards” is just a cowardly way out and shows no leadership or support for this and all members of our society. I guess Wild Rosie and the Conservatives are pretty much the same.
    35 years of voting conservative has ended. Sorry it took so long.

  20. Shawn, now that I think more about your comment it’s like telling a black person during the civil rights movement that when they “self accept” they are black everything will be okay…there is an assumption that school boards will make the right decision about allowing gsa’s in schools. The reality is students have been denied the opportunity. There is also an assumption in your comment that you would have to join. I don’t believe mandates. Each individual should choose as he/she wishes. More than anything the motion was symbolic of what is ” acceptable” in society.

  21. Well TD, it seems that some people who believe they are helping our cause will not be happy until we are elevated to an elite status in society. I am sorry your journey has been so difficult, but to compare our journey to acceptance to the outright atroscities committed to the Black culture is truly just being argumentative and unjust. I do not, and I am not speakjng for everyone else like many seem to be doing, want the burden of some self serving special status in society because of my orientation. That has been proven to be an poorly angled and grating function purely suited to appeasing everybody’s wounded conscience. Get over it and live your life without always searching for the recognition from society. There are a lot of causes out there more worthy.

  22. Don’t assume it has been difficult for me. How lucky that you have never felt invaluable or not worthwhile and feel more accepted. Try telling a 14 year old who has been kicked out of his home for coming out to his parents and then he gets picked on at school to not search for recognition from society. We need to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I’m curious to know what your credientials are to judge me as “out of touch” with what is happening with high school students or in schools.

    Counsellors have ethical responsibilities to speak for those who can not advocate for themselves or those who feel oppressed. Because you are privileged, I would not speak on your behalf It’s not just about ethics either- its about being human. Change doesnt come about from apathy or turning a blind eye because something doesn’t affect you. In history white people advocated for black people and non Jewish people fought for Jewish people during the holocaust. Amazing force and power of those who advocated for the less fortunate. Sad and questionable about those who had the ability but walked away.

    Read the research on the adversities of lgbtq and the benefits of gsa’s. Sociology does affect people’s psychology. Sure there are other causes. there is also value in making a difference in as many lives as possible.

    It’s not about elite status it is about normalcy. Not all school and lgbtq youth are in cities Most School board policies don’t even recognize homophobic slurs and language in anti bullying policies. They acknowledge cultural, gender, ethnic, disability and every other category but sexual orientation. Most people need to know more about what is going on. It wasn’t long ago a school board put a clause in first year teachers contracts that they would be fired for engaging in homosexuality. How lucky for anyone to not experience that in his/her workplace. Further, Kids in our school asked for a GSA but were told to be part of the diversity club. As you said above – being black and gay are not the same thing, right? Gsa’s are for lgbtq, same sex family kids and ALLIES. It is for everyone. Again, it’s not about the status…

    Another colleague just said to me the other day that he was disappointed he couldn’t go work in Ghana to build a school because the law forbids same sex male activity – so even if we focus on more worthy causes we are still limited by sexual orientation. how ironic.

  23. I don’t want to rip open this discussion any wider because we always seem to bypass the point of the topic and turn it into a philosophical journey. The point is to determine whether the government needs to get involved in mandating GSA’s to the local school boards. Let’s not turn the people who reject this idea, which has nothing to do with principles, and everything to do with leaving the government to do what it does best. So get involved in your local political movement and do something instead of venting on these forums about political gesturing. Yes, the conservative ideology is limited government intervention and that is the platform that has kept them in power in Alberta all these years. We have all seen the effects of the alternative in other provinces, countries and how self defeating it becomes. I mentor and engage my peers on the social level, and though I will admit that it is an enduring pace at times, the bottom up tactic always works better. The roots are stronger. We have to stop blaming the governments because we are too busy to invest in our community anymore.

  24. Check out:

    There are individuals who do feel this is a “worthy cause” Dr. Darren Lund (University of Calgary) and Dr. Kris Wells (University of Alberta) both speak on behalf of LGBQT issues and both frequently receive death threats and harassment because they advocate for LGBTQ issues. People need to open their eyes to what is actually happening in Canada

    check out:

    http://www.saravyc.ubc.ca/what-we-do/lgbtq-youth/

    Feigenbaum, E.F. (2007). Heterosexual privilege: the political and the personal. Hypatia, 22, 1-9.
    Gay and Lesbian Affirmative Psychotherapy (2010) FAQs. Gay and Lesbian Affirmative

    Kort, J. (2007). Alienation or Affirmation? Joe Kort and Associates.from http://www.joekort.com.

    Panchankis, J.E., & Goldfried, M.R. (2004). Clinical issues in working with lesbian, gay
    and bisexual clients. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice and Training, 41, 227-246. doi 10.1037/0033-3204.41.3.227

    University of Calgary (n.d.). Recognizing Heterosexual Privilege. In University of
    Calgary. from http://www.ucalgary.ca/positivespace/node/38.

    Winerman, L. (2004) Timely action. Monitor on Psychology, 35, 48-49.

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