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Paradis: stop playing political football with LGBTQ youth

GSA debate has become about grandstanding, not kids

Newly-elected leader of the Alberta PC party Jason Kenney answers questions at a news conference in a Calgary hotel earlier this month.

Metro file

Newly-elected leader of the Alberta PC party Jason Kenney answers questions at a news conference in a Calgary hotel earlier this month.

The debate over Gay-Straight Alliances this week—which had opponents facing off over whether parents should be notified, and even whether the clubs should exist at all—reached a crescendo with a tweet from k.d Lang.

“Are you gay?”

The beloved Alberta-born lesbian icon tweeted at Jason Kenney, the newly crowned leader of the Progressive Conservative party.

The debate has become personal.

But is any of this amped up political rhetoric doing anything to make potentially at-risk youth any safer?

Lang’s question was in response to Kenney’s comments in an editorial board meeting with Postmedia.

His comments, “I do, however, believe parents have the right to know what is going on with their kids in the school unless the parents are abusive” seem to indicate that he is ok with parental notification if a student joins a GSA.

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Since then, politicians of every stripe have weighed in. But do they truly have the best interests of kids at heart?

I doubt it. In fact, it reminds me of the moral panic in early 2000 where parents who watched Dateline and Dr. Phil were fed an endless stream of urban myths about what ‘the youth’ were up to. (You haven’t lived until you’ve talked to your grandmother about rainbow parties—gee thanks Oprah.)

Adding fuel to the fire, Education Minister David Eggens referred to Jason Kenney as an “extremist” in a Facebook post. It was a comment that I think most reasonable people, who probably associate extremist with ISIS, find to be a little exaggerated.

Yes, Kenney has a voting record that earns him full marks for social conservative organizations like Campaign Life Coalition, but he wasn’t suggesting exile or throwing LGTBQ people off a roof.

The issue of parental notification is contentious and many parents want to be kept informed about their child—but what adolescent doesn’t already keep a few secrets from their parents, and why can’t teachers be allowed to practice common sense?

Kids shouldn’t have to come out to their parents until they are ready, and many young people choose to tell their friends or siblings first.   

But with every party except the Wildrose (who are curiously silent about this) weighing in on this, it’s become more about political grandstanding than protecting the vulnerable. Even Greg Clark is on Twitter fighting with the Progressive Conservatives.

If it was really about kids maybe they would include them in the conversation. So far it's been people out of high school for over 20 years taking the center stage.

And really, Minister Eggen’s has already required all school boards to submit a policy around protecting LGBTQ students and the only remaining battle is with a few Baptist schools.

The province already has laws that require school boards to create an inclusive environment for students and staff as well as a code of conduct that doesn’t allow for discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

At the moment, Kenney’s opinion is moot as he doesn’t even have a seat in the legislature.

For the moment, the issue of GSAs appears to be settled. Any party wanting to roll back these policies will have to risk another Bill 10 fiasco. It looks to me that the only reason this debate is still going on is that things have ceased to become about the kids, and started becoming about getting more party memberships.

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