Gay-straight alliance bill 'damaging and hateful': Nenshi

Calgary mayor says bill would have done nothing but reinforce negative stereotypes about Alberta

CALGARY – Calgary’s mayor says a now-delayed Alberta government bill about gay-straight alliances in schools would have focused international attention on “what kind of hillbillies we are.”

During a speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Naheed Nenshi called the debate over Bill 10 “damaging and hateful.”

Premier Jim Prentice put the legislation on hold last week, saying he wanted to hear more from all sides before proceeding with it.

Nenshi said the bill would have done nothing but reinforce negative stereotypes about the province.

He said at a time when oil prices are dropping and cities face infrastructure problems, it was “ridiculous” that the legislature spent two weeks talking about “what club a kid in school can join or not.”

Nenshi thanked Prentice and called him a “good guy for putting the brakes on this thing.”

Gay-straight alliances, which are friendship clubs for gay students and supportive classmates, already exist in 94 public schools in Edmonton and Calgary but there are none in rural or faith-based schools.

Earlier this fall, Liberal Laurie Blakeman introduced a private member’s bill which would have given students the right to set up GSAs in their schools. But the Tories countered with a bill of their own which would have encouraged the establishment of the clubs but left the final decision up to schools and school boards.

The initial version of Bill 10 suggested if those steps were unsuccessful, students would be free to pursue the matter in the courts. The Tories later amended that to promise that if the schools said no, the government would set up the clubs.

But critics said forcing students off school grounds to set up a GSA was akin to segregation of blacks in the United States in the middle of the last century.

“If we say that we live in a city where we were thinking it would be OK for a 15-year-old to appear before a judge to ask the judge if a 15-year-old can start a club in his school, a club that no one would be forced to belong to?” Nenshi said Thursday.

“Well, folks, that would be the Scopes Monkey trial of Alberta. We would end up having international attention toward what kind of hillbillies we are. None of us need that.”

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