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NO TO BILL 10: Gay-Straight Alliances Make Schools Safer

12/05/2014 05:27 EST | Updated 02/04/2015 05:59 EST
Miguel Sotomayor via Getty Images

The more I see bad things happening in the world -- whether in my country or no -- the more I find myself getting riled up about injustice. The things happening in the US lately make me question our very evolution. How do things end up this way? When prominent media figures in Canada get taken down, I take a small bit of smug satisfaction in something greatly overdue (but mostly I support those women he hurt before he got caught and applaud their bravery for speaking out, in whatever form they wish to do so).

This week in Alberta some things hit the metaphorical fan when the government introduced Bill 10, which would allow the province's school boards to reject students' requests to create a peer-support group known as a gay-straight alliance (or GSA). Supporters say it would reduce bullying and save lives.

Maybe it's not backwards thinking and discrimination. Maybe, just maybe, they really do think this makes kids safer. I think they're wrong, and so does the research.

According to Safe Schools Alberta: "A recent UBC study showed that odds of homophobic discrimination and suicidal thoughts were reduced by more than half among lesbian, gay, bisexual boys and girls in schools where a GSA has existed for 3 years or more. On top of that, heterosexual boys were half as likely to attempt suicide as those in schools without GSAs."

Frankly, I'm sick of people allowing their personal beliefs and prejudices to make our society less progressive, less inclusive, and less safe. In a move very unlike me, I wrote to my (Progressive Conservative) MLA, Sandra Jansen.

Ms. Jansen,

I have never before contacted my MLA for any reason, but I am compelled to do so today regarding Bill 10. I was appalled to find out it was sponsored by the MLA for my constituency.

I don't know why it matters who sponsored it, as it has ended up before the legislature regardless. Maybe it's because it seems like something someone else would do - someone who is not in touch with the values I and those in my community hold, or someone whose perspective is swayed by something I'm not subjected to every day. But this is Calgary. This is 2014. That anyone representing a community as diverse as ours in a city this size and this much on the world map would think this type of bill is okay appalls me.

I am a married (straight) mother of two boys - 6 and 2. My older son has just started grade 1 this year, and I have no idea whether he might ever be in the vulnerable position of needing support from a club like a GSA. But if he does, I would hope that type of support would be something offered without question or prejudice.

The fact that young people want to form these sorts of groups to welcome and support each other, regardless of orientation, gives me hope for our future. The fact that an educated, elected member of our legislative assembly, with a background in journalism no less, would present something that would prevent these groups from receiving the support they need makes me despair for all the progress I thought we had made towards accepting people's differences and rejoicing in what makes us unique.

So many of your constituents don't support this bill. Please reconsider your own support and do your part to ensure it goes no further.

- Robin Farr

If you're an Alberta parent and would like to express your own displeasure about Bill 10, you can ask your own MLA to say no to it here.

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