You probably heard a lot about the controversial “Bill 10” that was due to be passed in the Alberta Legislature last week, but was pulled by the Premier before the third reading due to significant public backlash. Good thing too, besides being a bad piece of legislation it was destined to reinforce the Alberta hillbilly complex, according to Calgary’s mayor Naheed Nenshi.
The bill has been put on indefinite hold, “pending further consultation with Albertans”. Here’s a few reasons why that consultation should never happen.
Reason #1. People should be consulted on things that both impact them and they have either an informed opinion about or lived experience with. Being an LGBTQ youth in high school is a pretty niche experience. The formation of Gay-Straight Alliances in high school does not impact me, I don’t have lived experience with, nor (until I took the time to do some research), is a topic that I had an informed opinion about. Which leads me to…
Reason #2. If you DID take the time to get informed, you’d learn that, among many other startling statistics;
- LGBTQ youth are up to 3.4 times more likely to attempt suicide than other youth.
- Students who are harassed due to sexual orientation are more than three times as likely to attempt suicide than a student who has not been harassed.
- An estimated 28% of completed suicides are by LGBTQ people.
- Substance abuse is estimated at 2-4 times higher in LGBTQ populations than the normal.
- 86% of surveyed gay and lesbian students in one study reported being verbally harassed and abused at their high school.
Reason #3. The first two weren’t enough? How about the government’s record on doing timely, meaningful and engaging consultation processes that result in significant action on social issues? Oh. Right. We’ve done so well with, say, child poverty.
Reason #4. Assuming that the government decides to ignore reason #1 and actually does “consult Albertans”…what exactly is that going to look like? What kind of questions would you ask? Below are a few samples.
Q1. True or False: LGBTQ teenagers are people with rights and freedoms. (Hmm. They’re definitely people, but I’m not so sure about them having rights and freedoms. Is there a “Not Sure” option?)
Q2. On a scale of 1 (not important) to 10 (very important), please rate the following statements;
- That Alberta’s high schools are safe and inclusive environments for all students.
- That we take reasonable and effective actions to protect LGBTQ youth from harm associated with discrimination.
- That the Alberta Progressive Conservative party can continue to deny that it is, in fact, 2014.
And, finally, Reason #5. The very fact that the topic of GSA’s is being debated in the legislature instead of…oh, just about anything else…. is a sad commentary on how far we have to travel (approximately 40 years, according to the above cartoon). Sending Bill 10 out for “consultation” reinforces the notion that there’s something to consult about, which, if you’ve been paying attention to reasons 1-4, you probably realize there isn’t. There is no balancing of right’s to be done here. The protection of vulnerable teenagers against suicide, mental illness, substance use, homelessness and discrimination IS NOT something that can be stacked up against a parent’s right to choose if their kid gets exposed to reality while in school, or for certain religious school boards to hold fast to a quickly sinking ship.
I’m not against consultation. In fact, I firmly believe we don’t do enough of it. And there should be a conversation on this issue, starting with students and then probably including their teachers.
Just not with me…or the average Albertan.