Politics

Bill 24 Makes Sense

Update December 15, 2017 – Bill 24 becomes law.

I know I, and many other Albertans breathed a sigh of relief with the final vote of Bill 24.  Below is a post I originally wrote the day the bill was in committee after passing second reading.


Original Post:

In Alberta right now there is a debate going on about the Government’s proposed “Bill 24 An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances.” It’s a debate that has spun way out of control.

What is Bill 24?

Best described as an amendment to 2014’s “Bill 10 An Act to Amend the Alberta Bill of Rights to Protect our Children.” The current Bill 24 addresses the shortfalls of that initial bill.

So what was Bill 10?

A watered down law that required school boards in Alberta to allow students to form a Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) or Queer-Straight Alliances (QSA).

How was it watered down?

Two big ways:

  1. Privacy and confidentiality.
  2. Required role of the school administrations.

Some of the fallout of the vagueness of Bill 10 meant that when students decided to form or join a GSA/QSA sometimes teachers would volunteer that info to parents without clear permission from the youth involved. At best it might be a bit awkward for a parent to find this information out from their kid’s teacher – at worst it could result in violence, physical or emotional abuse, or homelessness for the youth involved.

No one, including youth, should be outed against their will or without their consent. This loophole in Bill 10 means that sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally – kids have been outed to their parents by their teachers or school administrators without prior consent from the student.

What Bill 10 lacked in this area was the strict requirement for consent from the youth. Bill 24 corrects that.

Bill 10 also lacked clear guidance on what schools were supposed to do administratively, it failed to define the role they should take. It only indicated that they were required to allow them to form. Depending on which school district you’re in that could have dramatic impacts.

Bill 24 corrects this, outlines the role of school admin and what the teachersshould do, in clear terms. It takes the weight off the school and gives them a standardized set of rules to follow on this issue.

Alberta-Provincial-Legislature-Building-Edmonton-Alberta-Canada-01

What’s the big deal?

Opponents consider this overreach by the government.

That is silly because there are many laws on the books that tell Government employees how to do their job. However, a PR/communications push by the social conservatives in the province has tried to frame the debate around “parental rights.”When really this is about the youth’s right to disclose, or not disclose, deeply personal information or information that could put them in harm’s way,

There is also the existential critique of whether this is the role of Government. While that is a fair debate to be had at the intellectual level, at the real world level action needs to happen now. There are children and teens in precarious positions and the passage of this law could help them.

Aren’t the NDP making this a political issue?

Yes, they are.

That’s also a dumb thing to say, they are the Government, everything they do is political. In this case, I think the NDP PR machine understands that the majority of Albertans are in favour of supports for GSA/QSAs. There is an election in 18-months and the NDP want to show they are not a flash in the plan, they want to be re-elected.

Meanwhile, the right wing has reunited (or so I hear…) under Jason Kenny and the United Conservative Party (UCP). They’re only seeming area of clarity as a party has been a call to oust Rachel Notley, there has been next to no substantive policy put forward by Kenny. The UCP leadership has been waiting for the leadership race to conclude before running a policy convention.

For the NDP it is a great time to strike at an area where Kenny is weak. They forced him and the UCP to make a call on this issue.

Ultimately…

Regardless of whether the NDP wants to score points off the passage of the bill that does not diminish the substance of it.

Read it Yourself if you don’t believe me.

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