Targeting of pride symbols shows more work needed to change attitudes

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann says that repeated incidents of vandalism aimed at pride symbols shows more work is needed to change attitudes.

“Alberta has come a long way in accepting and celebrating the LGBTQ2+ community,” says Swann. “However, the recent burning of a pride flag in Taber clearly shows more work is needed to change some negative attitudes and behaviours.”

Swann, a native of Taber, says that he has seen steady progress since growing up in the rural community. However, acceptance of pride issues has taken longer than expected and he decries any act of vandalism or hatred targeting any individual or group, especially sexual or religious minorities.

“Living in a free society means respecting the rights of others regardless of your personal views,” says Swann. “Vandalism and other acts of hatred of this nature are simply not acceptable in this day and age. We must all strive to be better than this.”

Alberta Liberals are proud proponents of inclusivity and acceptance, and were responsible for initiating the legislation of gay-straight alliances in Alberta’s schools.

Recently, Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan took part in pride celebrations in Edmonton and Lethbridge, and, yesterday, joined Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Assembly of First Nations National Grand Chief Perry Bellegarde, and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne for the Pride Parade in Toronto.

“Alberta Liberals will always walk side-by-side with LGBTQ2+ community,” says Khan. “The tearing down and burning of pride symbols, while deeply disturbing, also serves as solemn reminders of the importance of these pride celebrations and the work that is still left to be done.”


Statement on including teaching of consent in sex education curriculum

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann issued the following statement in support of including the teaching of consent in the sexual education curriculum:

“Alberta Liberals have advocated for a number of years to include the teaching of consent as part of the sexual education curriculum. I am proud to say that we adopted this position as formal party policy in 2014.

“That is why I am very pleased to see influential voices in the Catholic School Board showing leadership by publicly discussing this matter. In particular, I applaud Marilyn Bergstra for putting forward a motion today that would call on the Board to lobby the government to include important concepts such as safe sex and consent, as well as programming that would address a variety of sexual orientations, in the sexual education curriculum.

“Consent is a subject that sex education teachers need to start discussing with students as early and as often as possible. Teaching that yes means yes, no means no, and that permission must be sought, and given, before any sexual activity can occur is fundamental to the understanding of proper sexual, and, indeed, societal behaviour.

“As a graduate student in public health, Ms. Bergstra brings an important perspective to this debate. Her motion is aimed at equipping students with crucial, practical knowledge – not encouraging sexual activity. Concerns that providing students with such knowledge would promote promiscuity are, in my view, misguided.

“Therefore, I would encourage the Board to carefully consider approving this motion, and help to show leadership in this important area of the sexual education curriculum.”


David Swann statement on Ministerial Order to allow Gay-Straight Alliances

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann released the following statement in response to the Ministerial Order directing two schools to allow gay-straight alliances (GSAs):

“I thank the Minister of Education for his decision to enforce the law permitting gay-straight alliances to be established in all schools where students request them.

“However, I admonish him for not having taken a firmer stance from the beginning on this matter. By allowing a situation of open defiance to continue for as long as it had, he empowered a willful act of discrimination. This is something that he should not and must not permit.

“The incident further highlights the fact that many school board LGBTQ policies simply do not make the grade – the Minister even called them ‘clunky’. In some cases, students are even discouraged from using the terms LGBTQ or GSA. This goes against both the spirit and the letter of the law.

“One way to ensure transparency and accountability in this matter is to require all school boards, including private schools, to make their GSA policies publicly accessible. That way, parents, students, and the community can review them.

“The investigation that led to the Ministerial Order also raised concerns about a school’s ability to “out” LGBTQ students by notifying parents if students attend GSAs. If true, this is deeply troubling.

“Therefore, I call on the Minister to do everything in his power to protect these vulnerable students, and ensure their privacy and confidentiality is explicitly safeguarded.

“Finally, let us not forget that GSAs save lives. While students have the legal right to form GSAs, more needs to be done to remove all barriers to establishing these safe and inclusive student-led initiatives.”

Video of David Swann questioning Minister Eggen on Gay-Straight Alliances on March 14th can be found here.


Increased funding for Metta Clinic necessary to support transgender youth

Alberta Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann is urging Health Minister Sarah Hoffman to support transgender and gender diverse youth by increasing funding to the Metta Clinic.

The Metta Clinic at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary is one of the only resources available for transgender youth in Alberta. The clinic only receives enough funding to operate for one day a month, adding up to a meagre two weeks per year.

The growing demand for the clinic’s services has resulted in wait times for access to care of almost three years, during which time, these youth are at risk of severe mental health challenges, suicidal and self-harming behaviours, and threats of harassment and abuse.

“These wait times are simply unacceptable,” says Swann. “The kind of support that the Metta Clinic provides is exactly what these youth need at such a critical time in their physical, mental and social development.”

“I look forward to a promise of increased funding for this important work in the upcoming provincial budget.”

Alberta Liberals are proud supporters of the LGBTQ community, recently championing the issue of making gay-straight alliances (GSAs) mandatory in schools where students request them.

Swann is now calling on the NDP government to take the next step in improving the lives of Alberta’s transgender and gender diverse youth by increasing funding for this important dedicated clinical support.