“Schools are supposed to be about inclusiveness” – Mia, St. Albert Gazette (Dec. 6, 2014)
The recent debate on gay-straight alliances (GSAs) has been very divisive, not just in the legislative assembly but amongst society in general. While this was an issue that many of us normally don’t pay much attention to, it ended up striking the chords of all of us, bringing an otherwise somewhat silent issue to the forefront.
But why did this divisive debate end up in the public forum in the first place? Shouldn’t this be an issue to be resolved between students and their respective schools and/or school boards? Personally, I question why Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman brought this issue forward through her private member’s Bill 202 in the first place. Was it an issue of genuine concern to Alberta society, or was it intended to challenge the integrity of the PC government? If it was the former it certainly accomplished the latter and vice versa.
The debate and the subsequent move by the government to bring in their own bill – Bill 10, certainly raised the profile of the issue to the ceiling of public debate. It broadened the issue of the role of schools and school boards, and even the issue of religious involvement in the Alberta education system.
But in the end one might question why the creation of a school ‘club’ or alliance should even be brought to the floor of the Legislature. Surely there are more important and crucial issues for our legislators to be involved with. Or are there? This is no doubt a case of basic human rights, particularly when it involves the potential for student suicide!
In the end, the whole issue has been put on hold, possibly left to die on the order paper. In retrospect, I think the debate has been worthwhile but I would just as soon see Bill 10 (and Bill 202)) left to fall into legislative obscurity. The debate in itself has been healthy, although somewhat divisive. It has brought the issue of gay-straight alliances to the forefront of public attention. Above all however, it has made schools and school boards aware of the public concern and their responsibility to mediate these issues and resolve them amicably within their own walls and not to expect our provincially elected officials to resolve problems that should be mitigated at their own level.
I congratulate Laurie Blakeman for bringing this matter forward, regardless of her intentions, and I also congratulate Premier Prentice for his decision to table Bill 10 for further consideration.
Anytime controversial issues can be resolved without governmental intervention, society is better served. By referring these divisive issues to the legislature, government is forced to take sides and either one or usually both parties end up being dissatisfied with the end result.
Ken Allred is a former St. Albert alderman and MLA.