BenchPress--Vol 42-6.

Author:Peerani, Aaida
  1. Victory for Students in Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta

    In 2015, the Government of Alberta under Jim Prentice passed Bill 10: An Act to Amend the Alberta Bill of Rights to Protect our Children. This Bill amended The School Act to allow students to create voluntary student organizations, including gay-straight alliances (GSAs). As stated by the late Premier, it was an unambiguous commitment to equality for the LQBTQ community. In 2017, the Government of Alberta under Premier Rachel Notley passed Bill 24: An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances, which enhanced protections for LGBTQ+ students including prohibiting schools from exposing students who are part of gay-straight alliances to their parents or peers.

    In this case, parents and private schools applied to advocate for parental rights to know that their children are in GSAs. They argued that Bill 24 infringes on their freedoms of conscience, religion, and expression. They also argued that Bill 24 infringed Section 2 of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms by preventing them from accessing education consistent with their moral and religious values. They requested an interim injunction to this Bill and asked that:

    * the new provisions not be incorporated; and

    * the Minister of Education be prevented from de-funding or de-crediting schools for not complying with the new provisions.

    The Court dismissed their application. Based on the test for an interim injunction, the Court found that:

    * There is no serious constitutional issue to be tried because GSAs are voluntary organizations and students are not required to participate in them. Therefore, the rights of parents or schools to teach moral and religious values to their children are not restricted.

    * There would be irreparable harm from these changes. In fact, an expert in psychology found that GSAs actually provided many benefits including improved school performance, increase sense of safety and belonging at school, reduced casual sex, reduced drug use and abuse and enhanced psychological well-being.

    * The balance of convenience weighs in favour of maintaining the legislation. Based on expert evidence, statistically, there is a greater risk of harm to LGBTQ students without the legislation due to greater homophobia and as a result, a higher risk of suicides. Therefore, it is more important (and less harmful) to maintain the injunction and support LGBTQ students, than temporarily limiting a parents right to know and make decisions about their child's...

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