Alberta education minister plans to bolster GSA legislation
One Calgary lawyer said Eggen is wrong in asserting that children have a right to privacy in relation to their parents
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Alberta’s education minister said he’ll be bringing forward legislation in the fall session that would protect students in gay-straight alliances from being outed—but one Calgary lawyer said the minister could be overstepping.
Education minister David Eggen said his government believes that every student deserves a school that's a welcoming and caring place to learn—and this legislation would help ensure that.
“We’ve worked together with boards across Alberta to ensure their inclusive school policies reflect this core value,” he said.
The minister said as a former teacher, he knows that Alberta parents love and support their kids and he believes parents must play a key role in their education.
Eggen said he also knows that some students feel safer and more comfortable talking about these issues with their peers. He said joining a GSA is a sensitive decision.
“What's very insensitive is to suggest you would out kids who chose to join and gay-straight alliance,” he said. “Ultimately, it is gay students who should decide if or when they come out to their parents.”
But, Calgary lawyer John Carpay, President of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom, said the notion that children have privacy rights in relation to their own parents is “false.”
“In fact, parents have a right to know what their children are doing at school. To prohibit parents from being informed, absent exceptional circumstances, violates parents’ legal rights and responsibilities for their children,” he said.
Carpay said existing laws protect students in the “rare circumstances” where there's possible abuse from parents.
“What Minister Eggen is proposing to do presumes all Alberta parents are abusive,” said Carpay.
As for Eggen, he said he’s proud of the progress that’s been made in the last two years by his government and with the introduction of Bill 10, but two things have made it clear that legislative changes are required.
“First, Jason Kenney suggested that schools should be able to out LGBTQ students. That is dangerous and cruel,” he said. “This whole idea of Jason Kenney outing kids who join a GSA—we would make that against the law. ”
Second, Eggen said a number of private schools—who receive 70 per cent of their per-student funding from the public—still haven’t clearly allowed students to form GSAs.
He said 20 schools—the “vast majority” of which are private—have outright refused to introduce GSA policies as directed.
“Frankly, some of their policies are outright hostile to LGBTQ youth and their rights,” he said. “That’s why we need a stronger law to ensure that no child is being discriminated against, no matter what school they go to.”
Eggen said any part of creating law is creating enforcement mechanisms—in this case it could mean losing accreditation or funding.
“What we're doing here today is really part of that process, to serve notice to schools that have still to submit acceptable policy should do so,” he said.