Alberta’s new Progressive Conservative leader, Jason Kenney, on Tuesday March 28, 2017, during a editorial board with Postmedia Calgary.
Alberta Education Minister David Eggen said Wednesday that he was “disturbed” by new Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney’s comments on gay-straight alliances in schools.
Reacting to Kenney’s comments Tuesday that parents should be informed when their child joins a gay-straight alliance in school unless the parents are abusive, Eggen posted on Facebook that Kenney has shown himself as an “extremist.”
“We work very closely with parents, but let’s not forget gay-straight alliances are support groups for students who are in a very vulnerable position,” said Eggen.
“If the government is compelling people to out those students in a very compromised situation, then they’re only serving to make the situation worse.”
Jason Kenney addresses the Calgary Herald editorial board on Tuesday March 28, 2017.
Kenney posted a statement on his Facebook page Wednesday morning clarifying his position.
He said claims that he wants schools to “out” LGBTQ students to their parents are untrue.
“In some cases informing parents would clearly be inappropriate. Longstanding laws and protocols exist to protect children from potentially abusive parents. I trust teachers, principals and school counsellors to exercise their judgment about such matters, and that there should be a presumption that most parents are loving and caring, seeking only what is best for their children.
“The law should neither force schools to release information to parents, nor should it create an adversarial relationship between parents and their children,” he wrote.
Eggen said the law currently has no provision that stops school officials from notifying parents, but he’s “been looking at that very closely.” In the meantime, Eggen said most schools have gone beyond the letter of the law and embraced the spirit of it.
Alberta Minister of Education David Eggen arrives for a cabinet meeting in Calgary.
The NDP caucus released a statement saying Kenney was effectively calling for a repeal of the law, while the Alberta Party denounced the comments in the morning.
The Alberta Liberals said “outing students runs contrary to the intent of the law and is deeply concerning.” The Wildrose Party, which is in negotiations with Kenney’s PCs to unite under a new name, said local school boards should exercise their best judgment on whether or not parents should be notified.
Kenney’s statements show “a balance all our political representatives should aspire to,” said Donna Trimble, executive director of Parents for Choice in Education. The group believes parents should be involved in gay-straight alliances and wants to see legislation amended.
“Evidence shows that sexual and gender minority students have improved outcomes when they have good parent and family support,” Trimble said in an email Wednesday.
Progressive Conservative MLA Sandra Jansen announces on Thursday, November 17, 2016, that she has left the PC party and joined the Alberta New Democratic Party.
NDP MLA Sandra Jansen, who originally sponsored the GSA bill under the Jim Prentice government before crossing the floor to the NDP from the PCs, said a majority of Albertans want to see LGBTQ kids protected.
“The protection is there not for the kids who come from good and understanding families, but for the kids who come from families that don’t understand,” said Jansen.
Some teachers say the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s code of conduct prevents them from divulging information without a student’s permission.
“The unilateral outing of a student would certainly leave me to question whether they had abided by (the code),” said Dennis Theobald, the association’s associate executive secretary.
Laurie Blakeman, who sponsored the original private member’s bill that led to the law, said Kenney has been in Ottawa too long and is behind the times on where Albertans stand on the issue.
“I think these guys don’t get it. And I think he’s playing to what he thinks is a very large group of people, when it’s actually playing to a very, very narrow group of people,” she said.