MEDICINE HAT, AB — A Court of Queen’s Bench judge has dismissed a request to put the province’s law regarding gay-straight alliances on hold.
In a decision released on Wednesday, Justice Johnna Kubik declined a request to to place an injunction on the law until there was a ruling on its constitutionality.
“The public interest in promoting basic equality for staff and students of institutions supported by public funding would not be served by staying (the law), or otherwise ratifying the schools’ decision not to attest on the basis of an unproven risk to funding or accreditation,” Kubik wrote in her ruling.
Last year, the NDP government passed Bill 24, which prohibited schools from informing parents if their child has joined a gay-straight alliance.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms led the challenge to the law, representing 25 faith-based schools and two other organizations. The applicants argued the legislation infringed on their rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedom, including freedom of religion and expression.
The applicants also argued the schools who didn’t comply with the new law would lose provincial funding. In her ruling, Kubik wrote, "there is no evidence which demonstrates a real, concrete and unavoidable risk that the schools will lose funding or accreditation.”
In her ruling, Kubik added suspending the law from its enforcement could have a negative impact on students.
"The effect on LGBTQ+ students in granting an injunction, which would result in both the loss of supportive GSAs in their schools and send the message that their diverse identities are less worthy of protection, would be considerably more harmful than temporarily limiting a parents right to know and make decisions about their child's involvement in a GSA," she writes.
The full ruling can be viewed here.
The challenge was heard in Medicine Hat on June 20, with representatives from both sides in attendance.
John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, says the decision did not address the concerns of the applicants. The challenge included two applicants who said their daughter, who is autistic, suffered “severe psychological and emotional harm,” after being a member of a GSA for over a year. The parents say when their daughter was in the GSA, her peers and teachers would encourage her to dress as, and pretend to be a boy at school, and claimed their daughter became suicidal.
“We’re very disappointed with the ruling and we plan to appeal,” he said over the phone from Ottawa. “In particular, we’re disappointed that the compelling evidence put before the court by parents and by medical experts, about the harm that has been caused to children by GSA’s was not looked at very seriously.”
In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Education Minister David Eggen called the decision “a win for justice and equality in the province of Alberta.”
Eggen also took aim at the United Conservative Party, who voted against Bill 24 last year.
“Today’s decision is a big loss for Jason Kenney’s allies, who tried to use the court to suspend a law that protects vulnerable kids,” he told reporters in Edmonton. “Our government is very pleased with today’s outcome, and let me be crystal clear, Bill 24 is the law, and it will be enforced.”
Kenney was not among the applicants in the lawsuit.
School divisions have until the end of month to submit their policies regarding gay-straight alliances to the province.
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