Saskatchewan NDP calls for province to introduce legislation to protect GSAs

REGINA — The Saskatchewan NDP is calling on Premier Scott Moe's government to introduce legislation that would protect students' rights to form gay-straight alliance clubs.

Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said the clubs are a topic of debate right now in the Alberta election, where United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney has promised to replace legislation that prevents educators from telling parents if their children participate in GSAs.

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Meili said such a move would be backward. He said the Saskatchewan Party government needs to legislate students' rights to form or join a GSA.

The NDP said Saskatchewan is one of the only provinces where a student's right to do so is not protected by legislation.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said a policy exists that allows GSAs in school divisions and respects the confidentiality of students.

Cat Haines, program co-ordinator with UR Pride Centre at the University of Regina, said she knows youth who face bullying and negative comments about their gender and sexual identity.

She said the centre has encountered students who had difficulty forming GSAs because of unsupportive school staff and administration, as well as students not feeling safe because their parents may find out.

"A GSA really provides a safe space and community within their school where they can feel supported and where they feel like they can really be themselves," Haines said Wednesday.

Without legislation around GSAs, students lack a clear path about what to do in cases where the policies are not being followed, she added.

Education Minister Gord Wyant said the province's existing policy that says school divisions should respond positively to student requests to form GSAs works well. His office has not received a complaint where a student has been denied forming such a group, he said.

Wyant said it's incumbent on people to report their complaints and there is an online tool to help.

"If there's a student who ... isn't able to create a GSA or with a group of people to create a GSA, I'm not sure how I would know or anyone else would know that they were denied unless they told us," said Wyant.

Haines said expecting that of students is unrealistic.

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