Alberta hasn't exactly been having its best week.
Although the province has been challenging its socially conservative stereotype, the recent controversy over the United Conservative Party's (UCP) motion to inform parents when their children join gay-straight alliances (essentially outing them as LGBTQ) hasn't helped. Neither has a stomach-churning video of a woman's racist rant against a group of men in a Lethbridge, Alta. Denny's (although the woman was later revealed to be from Cranbrook, B.C.).
While the province's political leaders have responded to both incidents with remorse — Premier Rachel Notley noted that the UCP motion is "not aligned with Alberta's values," and Lethbridge mayor Chris Spearman said on Facebook that "most Lethbridge citizens are proud of our reputation as a city that welcomes immigrants and refugees" — a third incident involving an alleged homophobic sticker has some worried that Alberta is becoming "the Texas of Canada."
Dr. Kristopher Wells, an assistant professor and faculty director with the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta, posted a picture on Tuesday of a sticker that appeared to be homophobic posted on a truck in St. Alberta, Alta.
"Very disturbing to see this homophobic sticker in St. Albert this evening. This is why we need to stand united against hate," Wells wrote in a tweet.
The sticker said "Gay free and proud," and was posted in the back window of a truck beside other stickers for high-performance auto parts and racing equipment. The words "Gay free" were above the words "and proud," which (while ambiguous due to its lack of punctuation), can be interpreted as gay-free and proud, or perhaps somehow proud due to lacking "gayness."
But while some people were understandably upset by the sticker, others noted that it could be much improved with just a few commas ...
I'm staying on the optimistic side and thinking this person may need help with punctuation.
— Serena Mah (@SerenaCMah) May 9, 2018
"The interweb has come to save the day and erase hate," Wells wrote in a tweet later that day. He included a photo of the same sticker, which had been edited online to now read "gay, free, and proud!"
"Indeed, commas for equality," he wrote in another tweet.
Alberta is a progressive province: Wells
Wells, who is also co-founder and co-director of Camp fYrefly, a national leadership retreat for sexual and gender minority youth, as well as a driving force behind the Alberta GSA Network, has written previously to challenge Alberta's stereotype as "Canada's Bible Belt and Texas of the North."
"Alberta is young. Our average age is now 36, which makes us the youngest province in Canada. We are also an educated province. And, perhaps most important, we are a progressive province," Wells wrote in the Globe and Mail in 2016.
He noted that support for same-sex marriage has increased across the province, and that "Alberta has emerged as a national leader on LGBTQ human rights issues."
On Sunday, after the UCP voted 57 per cent in favour of the gay-straight alliance (GSA) motion, Wells tweeted that "The kind of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric expressed by many at the
#UCPagm is not only hateful, it places many LGBTQ youth at risk in their homes, schools, and communities."
"These are not the values of most Albertans. They only serve to embarrass our province and nation."
Clarification: An earlier version of this article did not specify that the woman filmed in a Lethbridge, Alta. Denny's is from Cranbrook, B.C.