At their founding Annual General Meeting (AGM) from May 4 to 6, Alberta’s United Conservative Party (UCP) took a stance on the balance between the rights of parents and of LGBT students. On Sunday morning, 57% of delegates voted in favour of a resolution that would require parents to be informed any time their child becomes involved with peer groups related to religion or human sexuality. As a result, a student who joins a gay-straight alliance (GSA) could be “outed” to their parents.
It has subsequently earned immense backlash from members of both the provincial and federal governments.
Alberta Minister of Education, David Eggen stated, “I am so disappointed in the United Conservative Party for voting to out students who join GSAs to their parents. . . The UCP showed us their true colours this past weekend, and that is that they hold extreme views that don’t represent the majority of Albertans.”
As MLA Randy Boissonnault announced publicly, “It is unbelievable that in 2018 people are trying to out LGBTQ2 kids against their will. . . Today I am calling on all Albertans who believe in inclusion and acceptance to condemn this [resolution]. The people who support this policy do not speak for us; they do not represent the Alberta we call home. To the students, who may be feeling afraid or unsure after seeing this policy adopted, know that you have allies, you have friends. Those friends outnumber the haters by the millions, and I am among those friends.”
In addition to New Democrats and Liberals, many United Conservatives have publicly opposed the resolution, including Jason Nixon, Official Opposition House Leader, and Leela Aheer, Deputy Party Leader. Both are Members of the Legislative Assembly and spoke to the UCP convention against mandatory disclosure.
Leela Aheer said, “When we’re talking about freedoms, that means all people’s freedoms. That means making sure that children have safe spaces in schools” to defend the right of students to form GSAs without fear of being outed.
Jason Nixon also spoke personally in the following days saying that he fully supports the right of students to tell their own stories and appreciates the necessity of peer support groups for LGBT youth.
While the resolution earned enough votes by members to be considered favoured by the party, it has not officially been adopted as policy or part of the United Conservative platform. Instead, UCP issues rest on leader Jason Kenney, who has the right to enforce or ignore such policy.
As Kenney said at the conclusion of the AGM on Sunday, “Let me be absolutely stone-cold clear: a United Conservative government will not be changing law or policy to require notification of parents when kids join GSAs. We will not do that. You can take that to the bank”
LGBTory, a LGBT conservative advocacy group also chimed in on the issue, releasing a statement by its Alberta coordinator, Harrison Fleming, in support of Kenney and the UCP:
We are excited to have our feet on the ground in Alberta, and look forward to our continuing work with the UCP to move forward together on policies that directly affect the LGBT community.
How the UCP and it’s leader move forward from this convention will set the stage for the 2019 election and for the rights of LGBT youth in Alberta. What’s next is unclear, but as spring 2019 approaches and each party doubles down on its campaign, Albertans and global citizens alike will bear witness to how big tent conservative parties will choose to handle the LGBT community.