Eight faith-based schools in Central Alberta were among the schools that challenged gay-straight alliances in Medicine Hat Court of Queen’s Bench. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Central Alberta schools lose court challenge

Gay-straight alliances upheld

Eight faith-based schools in Central Alberta were among several across Alberta that lost their court challenge against gay-straight alliances on Wednesday.

A week ago Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms represented 26 Jewish, Christian and Sikh schools in Medicine Hat Court of Queen’s Bench in a constitutional challenge against provincial legislation in support of gay-straight alliances in schools.

Central Alberta schools included Koinonia Christian School and Destiny Christian School in Red Deer, Central Alberta Christian High School in Lacombe, Lacombe Christian School, Lighthouse Christian Academy in Sylvan Lake, Ponoka Christian School, Rimbey Christian School, and Living Truth Christian School in Mirror.

Bill 24 bans schools from telling parents if their children join the peer groups meant to make LGBTQ kids feel welcome and to prevent bullying and abuse.

The province and others have argued the law is meant to protect LGBTQ youth, who may be put in harm’s way if they are outed to unaccepting parents.

Meanwhile, schools argued the bill attacked their freedom to create safe learning environments while respecting their religion, and prevented schools from being open with parents.

In her decision, Justice Johnna Kubik said the benefits to LGBTQ youth outweigh any potential harm and denied the request to put the legisation on hold.

“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 parent’s right to know and make decisions about their child’s involvement in a GSA,” Kubik said in her decision.

She dismissed many of the Justice Centre’s arguments around irreparable harm, including that young and vulnerable children may be exposed to graphic material through the alliances.

“There is no evidence that any of these materials were ever promoted by the respondent or GSAs generally, or that the materials ever came into the hands of any students through a GSA,” Kubik wrote. “There is no evidence that there is a risk of the material being disseminated to students in GSAs.”

She also said she could not determine the reliability of accounts cited by the Justice Centre of children becoming suicidal after being encouraged to dress and behave like the opposite sex at school.

“I find that the applicants have failed to prove a degree of irreparable harm, which outweighs the public good in maintaining the legislation.”

— with files from THE CANADIAN PRESS



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