TESA pleased with GSA decision

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by Morinville News Staff

The Trans Equality Society of Alberta (TESA) is applauding the Government of Alberta’s Mar. 10 vote to provide explicit protection for gender identity and expression within the Alberta Bill of Rights.

“TESA is jubilant that the Alberta government has chosen to make
trans* inclusion explicit in our laws,” said TESA President Jan Buterman in a release Mar. 11. “Until now, protection for gender
identity and gender expression in Alberta was achieved through
interpreting the existing ground of ‘sex’ in the Alberta Human Rights
Act.”

Buterman went on to say “trans* Albertans will benefit by amending the Alberta Bill of Rights to state explicitly that people may not be discriminated against for their gender identity or gender expression.”

Buterman noted while human rights laws often use the terms ‘everyone’ and ‘every person’, many people do not seem to recognise that all people are included in those same terms.

“Changes to the Alberta Bill of Rights means that Alberta now joins together with seven other provinces and territories that have ‘gender identity’ or ‘gender identity and gender expression’ explicitly enumerated within human rights legislation,” Buterman said.

[SUBHEAD]GSAs in schools

The amendments to Bill 10 enable gay-straight alliances to be established in schools.

“Since our Government put a pause on Bill 10 in December, we have reflected, listened and learned,” said Premier Jim Prentice in a Mar. 10 release. “Today, we passed an amended Bill 10 that responds to all of those Albertans, including members of opposition parties, who spoke so passionately about protecting our youth. Any students who want a Gay-Straight Alliance will have one at their school.”

They were sentiments echoed by Education Minister Gordon Dirks. “Over the last three months, during my consultation with Albertans from all walks of life, I was most struck by youths who are already members of a Gay-Straight Alliance and who say that without a GSA, they would feel lost and alone,” the Minister said. “I tabled these amendments for these young people, in hopes that they will always have a safe and welcoming community.”

Under the amendments, students may set up GSAs in their schools and those groups may meet on school property.

The Trans Equality Society of Alberta is also pleased with what the changes mean to students looking for peer support in the province’s schools.

“Many trans* adults in Alberta find peer support groups valuable when
dealing with discrimination in employment, housing, healthcare and other areas,” Buterman said. “Given the complexities of the school environment and how easy it is for the trans* child to be outed through school records, class lists, and other staples of the school environment, TESA strongly supports accessible peer support groups within Alberta schools,” Buterman said.

The bill now awaits Royal Assent and would come into force on June 1, 2015.

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