Alberta’s Conservatives are obsessed with Gay-Straight Alliances

Following Progressive Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney’s comments to the Calgary Postmedia editorial board fifteen days ago when he came out in favour of allowing schools to inform parents when students join a student-initiated Gay-Straight Alliance club, Alberta’s conservative politicians have tied themselves in knots over the issue.

Gay-Straight Alliances are student-initiated clubs meant empower students to create safe environments in their own schools, which studies have found may reduce the odds of suicidal thoughts and attempts among both sexual minority and straight students. As I wrote last week, having schools track their involvement in these clubs and informing their parents is not just creepy but could be dangerous.

It appeared as if Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean was setting himself apart from Kenney on April 3 by coming out against outing students to their parents, saying that “it’s much like a math club or a prayer club, and I don’t think that would be appropriate (for parents to be told when a child joins).” On April 4, he changed his tune, stating that parents should only sometimes be notified. But by April 5, he switched back to his original position that he did not believe parents should be notified if their child joins a GSA.

On April 6, Jean appeared to be contradicted by Mark Smith, the Wildrose MLA for Drayton Valley-Devon, who criticized a letter sent to school officials by Education Minister David Eggen reaffirming the NDP government’s belief that parents should not be informed if students join GSAs.

The NDP have visibly enjoyed the attention that Kenney and Jean’s comments have generated, on a provincial and even international level. These types of social issues generally play to the strength of the NDP, which is why Kenney desperately tried to pivot his message back to the provincial economy before disappearing from public sight last week.

The NDP are trying to frame Kenney as a social conservative – which he is – going back to his days as an anti-abortion activist while enrolled as a student at a Roman Catholic university in San Francisco.

A large portion of the membership base of the Wildrose Party is also social conservative, which both Kenney and Jean are courting for support in their bids to lead a new conservative party.

This week, the president of the Wildrose Party association in Medicine Hat evoked the legacy of residential schools and forced sterilization in a Facebook post supporting Kenney’s position. “How did the native schools turn out? Yup, that was the government telling us they knew best. How about sterilizing handicapped people? Yup, another brilliant government idea,” wrote Maureen Prince on Facebook post published on April 4, 2017. She also claimed in a Facebook post published on March 16, 2017 that the United Nations wants to “redistribute children to be raised by governments.”

Prince appears to be an active member of a conservative education group called Concerned Parents of Medicine Hat School District #76, which is a vocal critic of the NDP and its stance on GSAs.

The Concerned Parents group provided “Include Parents” buttons to several Wildrose MLAs who wore them in the Legislative Assembly this week. The group appears to be associated or allied with a province-wide conservative education advocacy group called “Parents For Choice in Education.

Parents for Choice took issue with Jean’s first and third positions against potentially outing students to their parents, saying that he and Education Minister David Eggen had the “gall to falsely and audaciously accuse parents of being the greater danger to these vulnerable youth.”

With conservative politicians stuck on the GSA issue, Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP government has been playing to their strengths, spending the past few weeks announcing lower school fees, school nutrition programs, locations for $25-per day childcare programs, and the construction of new schools, hospitals and affordable housing projects.

The NDP subtly shifted their messaging over the past few months, focusing on launching new programs and projects that they argue will “make lives better for Albertans,” rather than trying to out-flank the conservatives on economic issues. And it is working remarkably well for the NDP.

Meanwhile, despite previous claims by Brian Jean that he has “no interest” in social issues and Jason Kenney’s pledge to create a free-market conservative party, it appears that the only issue galvanizing conservatives over the past two weeks is whether or not to allow the state-sanctioned outing of gay kids.

10 thoughts on “Alberta’s Conservatives are obsessed with Gay-Straight Alliances

  1. Sam Gunsch

    Here’s a FBook comment from a someone on a Medicine Hat TV FBook thread, that IMO explains in a very calm, rational, reflective manner, why GSAs are necessary, and why WRP/PCAA leaders are so very wrong in their indirect attacks on GSAs:
    ‘https://www.facebook.com/CHATTV/posts/10158610271570473
    XXXX YYYY ZZZZZ As a gay youth I would have loved to join a GSA at my school and absolutely would have been devastated if my parents were informed. My parents are wonderful people. But they weren’t ready to accept me and I was certainly not ready to tell them at that age–it was and is my own choice when or if I wanted to tell them. People who say they are worried about “pornographic material” obviously don’t know what their kids are already watching and understanding in the media anyway–sex education isn’t explicit material. It’s teaching tools. Telling parents that a student joins a club is detrimental and dangerous to their mental health. It would have been for me and there is no neglect in my family. Let people be themselves on their own terms.
    Like · Reply · 4 · 1 hr’

    Reply
  2. Tony

    These people are bonkers. From the Concerned Parents of Medicine Hat School District #76 website:

    “Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and Mao’s China. All of which seized control of the children’s education, shut the parents out, and indoctrinated them into horrible murderous ideologies. But those are all examples from far off lands, so lets look to something closer to home. Let’s remember the residential schools.

    The residential schools did exactly what the Alberta NDP and Ontario Liberals are trying to do now. They seized control of aboriginal children, stuck them in forced government sanctioned education, and removed all parental oversight and protection from sexual predators.”

    LINK: http://www.cposd76.com/2017/04/10/residential-schools-and-lessons-from-history/

    Reply
  3. Theresa

    Hi Dave,

    Your reference to the article by Parents for Choice would be more complete if you included the entire sentence instead of just a part of it. Here is the full sentence to provide some important context for the benefit of your readers:

    “It is unbelievable that these resources and community support links were made available to K-12 children from the provincial GSA “experts”, yet Brian Jean, the Minister of Education and other MLAs have the gall to falsely and audaciously accuse parents of being the greater danger to these vulnerable youth.”

    And for your readers who are not yet familiar with the sexually graphic material that was provided to children by the provincial GSA “experts”, referenced in the above quote by PCE, here is the link: https://informedalbertans.wordpress.com/2017/03/13/alberta-government-funds-website-directing-k-12-kids-to-sexually-graphic-content/

    Thanks,
    Theresa

    Reply
      1. Theresa

        Hi Mike,

        On what basis are you coming to that conclusion?

        If you’re trying to make a point then being more specific would help.

        Theresa

        Reply
    1. Craig

      Your ‘context’ is worse. Saying exposure to graphic sexual content (which is really no worse than what can be found in a cosmo magazine) is worse than the known risks of physical/emotional abuse or being kicked out by parents for being gay is a monsterous position to take.

      Reply
      1. Theresa

        Hi Craig,
        FYI – The sexually graphic content was offered specifically as “community support” resources to help children.

        Assuming that what you are saying is true (that exposure to graphic sexual content is “really no worse than what can be found in a Cosmo magazine”) then here are my questions for you:

        1) Does that mean you would support your taxpayer dollars going toward Alberta Education funding and recommending Cosmo/graphic sexual material to K-12 children?

        2) Do you think Cosmo/graphic sexual material is the best standard that our provincial government has to offer as resources to our vulnerable and at-risk youth?

        I would appreciate understanding how you think Cosmo/sexually graphic material is helpful to K-12 students.

        Reply
  4. David

    I don’t know if all Alberta Conservatives are obsessed with Gay Straight Alliances, but Jason Kenney seems to have a curious interest in them. Perhaps that was because he missed the big debate about them here earlier while he was away in Ottawa for 20 years or so in the previous part of his political career.

    It seems mostly to be an issue for social conservatives and perhaps some religious schools. I think many Albertans are comfortable with what was implemented by the previous PC government and the current NDP government.

    Reply
  5. Max Eddy

    Dave: I would like to know when extra curricular activities became the responsibility of schools. Next the department of education will be wanting to dictate how the Boy Scouts of Canada operate. This is a dangerous and slippery slope Alberta society is about to go down..

    Reply
  6. Conrad

    Conservatives are obssessed with Gay-Straight Alliances for good reason! It is classic socialism to separate children from their parents by any means to ensure dependence and perpetuation of state control over our society. Shame on the PC’s and NDP for voting for these!

    Max Eddy makes a valid point. Do we want a society where every club is regulated by the government?

    Reply

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