#Motion503: The Problem with Cusanelli
Allow me, for a moment, to rant.
If you’ve been watching this blog, or twitter, or any major newspaper or television broadcast, you may have heard of Motion 503, a private members motion that was moved April 7th by Liberal Education Critic Kent Hehr. Between a petition on his party’s website gathering more than 1,300 signatures, a twitter storm, forty or more mentions in the media from coast to coast, this motion has gathered a lot of attention.
Essentially, the motion boils down to this: it’s a call by the province to have all schools — public, private, separate, or otherwise — support Gay Straight Alliances where a student wants to start one. A Gay Straight Alliance is a student club where students, either part of the LGBT community or allies, gather together to support one another in a manner as decided by them. It’s a pretty simple thing and a thing that makes a lot of sense.
The need is there, the benefit is clear, and the support is broad.
Gay Straight Alliances have massive benefits to counteracting bullying. As I’ve written before, Gay Straight Alliances saves lives and improves the welfare of students. Study after study have shown it. It can drop the suicide rates for heterosexual boys by 50%, and reduce the homophobic discrimination and suicidal thoughts by LGBT youth by more than 50%. It is a powerful thing having youth support one another where before there was little.
— Kent Hehr (@kenthehr) March 28, 2014
Support for the motion and for mandating the support of GSAs is broad. Both of Alberta’s large city mayors supported the motion. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi gave the motion a shout out at the ‘Breakfast with Brian’ fundraiser earlier this week and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson also shared his support — and his disappointment when it didn’t pass. The Alberta Teachers Association has endorsed it and been championing for this since 2005. Manitoba and Ontario have enshrined the protection of Gay Straight Alliances into law.
So when the provincial Conservatives voted two-to-one against Motion 503 and the whole Wildrose caucus votes against the motion in unison, there’s a problem.
Christine Cusanelli, the MLA for Calgary-Currie and ex-principal, should know better. She voted against Motion 503. So, again she proves herself worthy of the CTF’s award for poor judgement and government waste. Using government dollars to fund her family’s trip to the London Olympics (dinging the public purse to the tune of $113,000), and now this, it’s just another instance showing her extraordinarily bad judgement.
In her facebook posting on GSAs she says, in essence, that the law says that principals in schools have to follow the law. The law that says that bullying won’t be tolerated in the education act.
Here’s the problem, though.
Her Conservative party passed an edit to the human rights act that allows parents to seclude their children from any mention of LGBT issues in the classroom. And in one school — a public school — a kid can be expelled for engaging in “homosexual” behaviour. And in the Catholic system there is not a single Gay Straight Alliance due to kids being told not to start them, like one student was told in Edmonton. In comparison, there are 40 GSAs across Alberta’s public schools.
As Graham Thomson writes, it’s also the same Conservatives that gutted the Human Rights Act from the Education Act.
Those laws, Mdm. Cusanelli? They’re not working. Or they’re working just as you and the Conservatives want them to: they’re not protecting kids and are preventing them from freely associating with one another to support one another.
And for others in her caucus, who say that they want to respect local autonomy of school boards it’s simply farcical. Our country has the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Human Rights Act that ought to be protecting these students. To clamor to local autonomy is cruel and hiding from the issue. Also, Manitoba and Ontario have already moved forward and legislated support of Gay Straight Alliances.
Some think that the “lake of fire” party is the Wildrose. The thing is is that the Progressive Conservatives are no different from their conservative brethren.