OK, kiddo! Here are all the fantastically amazing posts tagged with Alberta
Alberta Premier Alison Redford took part in Edmonton’s annual Pride parade earlier this month, making her the province’s first premier to ever participate in a Pride event.
While this might seem awfully late compared to other provinces, it’s actually a pretty big deal for Alberta. When I left Alberta in the mid-2000s, premier Ralph Klein was still pushing for a national referendum on same-sex marriage after conceding that banning it was outside of provincial juridiction. Edmonton’s mayor, Bill Smith, flatly refused to recognize Pride week as a city event because… actually, I’m still not sure why. I was personally made to feel unwelcome in multiple facets of day-to-day life, helping spawn the site you’re reading now. So to see a premier march—and then speak to a crowd of thousands—in support of equal rights for the GLBT community is an important milestone.
Of course, there’s still some progress to be made. That same week, Alberta’s opposition leader Danielle Smith blasted the government’s plan to re-instate the small amount of health funding for sex reassignment surgery, calling it an elective cosmetic procedure. Members of Danielle’s party have been spouting some pretty bizarre anti-gay comments (prompting the production of a new T-Shirt), and a prominent plan in her party’s platform involved allowing regular citizens to legally refuse public services to gay customers.
Still, it’s clear where the overall trend is headed in Alberta. And that trend is toward the late 1990s. So, welcome! And congratulations.
The Wildrose Party, a socially-conservative provincial party hoping to wrestle power away from Alberta’s current conservative government, is defending its election platform against some pretty serious criticism this month. The policy is pretty far to the right of the political spectrum, even by Alberta’s standards.
One contentious point in particular, though, involves the concept of “conscience rights:” The ability for citizens in the service industry to refuse public services to others based on whatever private religious beliefs they may hold. If made into policy, explicit situations include civil marriage commissioners legally refusing their services for gay couples, pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control, and other equally wacky concepts.
I’m not sure if Wildrose is aware that this kind of legislation swings both ways, allowing someone like me to refuse services to, oh… say, members of the Wildrose party. You know, for being total knobs.
More to the point, though, this policy would be illegal, as the federal Charter of Rights and freedoms forbids public service discrimination based on race, sex, age, religion, or sexual orientation. Frighteningly, though, the party could weasel this kind of bill into law through obscure constitutional loopholes like the Notwithstanding Clause, and they haven’t ruled this step out. I would certainly hope Albertans wouldn’t tolerate such extremes.
Danielle Smith—the leader of the Wildrose Party—steadfastly defended the policy, however, releasing a statement accusing all concerns surrounding the policy as “fear-mongering” by “liberal politicians.” If you ask me, it sounds like someone’s got their hubcaps in a twist over some pretty serious constitutional flaws in their policy. Here’s hoping Albertans don’t stand for this kind of nonsense on April 23rd.
- Conscience rights battle heats up [Calgary Herald]
Kool 105.5, a Calgary-based radio station, is tackling bullying with a pretty novel incentive: A contest. The school that signs the most pledges asserting that everyone has “the right to feel safe, respected, valued, and accepted” will get a free concert performed during school hours. Of course, if anyone breaks the pledge, all memory of the concert will be surgically removed by a brain specialist.
Last year, Alberta finally removed homosexuality from its list of disorders that doctors in the province could bill the government for treating. This was 38 years after the disorder was delisted by the American Psychological Association, of course, but Alberta’s a little slow and deserved some congratulations for taking the leap forward into about four decades ago.
Strangely, it seems that not all doctors have got the memo about the change. Kathleen Range, a spokesperson for Alberta Health and Wellness confirmed to the media on Friday that Albertan doctors are continuing to submit diagnostic codes for treatment of homosexuality along with their billing information.
Sounds like some of these doctors might be suffering from a case of old timey Albertanism. Some ground eggshells, castor oil, a good dose of electroshock and—if all else fails—relocation therapy ought to do the trick, don’t you think?
Calgary may not have the reputation of being a particularly tolerant city, but that perception could change sooner than one might think. For one, Calgarians elected a surprisingly progressive mayor last year. Naheed Nenshi won by a comfortable margin thanks in large to an active youth vote, assembled into action via social media. And now, from this involved base of progressives, the city’s mayor has—for the first time ever—led the city’s annual Pride parade.
For some history, Calgary—the largest city in the Canadian prairies—hasn’t been particularly welcoming of Pride celebrations in the past. It famously rescinded a Gay Pride proclamation in the early 90s following angry public demonstrations. Even more recently, any public visibility by the city’s GLBT community is usually accompanied by protesters, an annual occurrence at the Pride parade, as well as events like the regional Outgames in 2007.
Needless to say, I think the growing visibility and comfort of the GLBT community is wonderful, and already a big change from my experience living in Calgary in the mid 2000s. So, thank you, Mayor Nenshi, for representing all Calgarians!
- Nenshi first Calgary mayor to lead Gay Pride parade [Globe and Mail]
Well, here’s a very special way to have your struggle for equality used by large corporations!
The Alberta tar sands, condemned internationally as one of the most environmentally harmful projects in human history, is having some understandable difficulties with its public image. Presenting the sands as an environmentally responsible project or merely downplaying its harm is an obvious non-starter, so hired PR firms are instead pointing to Canada’s record of human rights compared to other oil-producing nations in an attempt to re-brand it as “ethical oil.”
And cue our cameo!
Oil producers have created a video promoting Canada’s tar sands, contrasting images of gay men being executed by hanging in Iran with a gay Pride parade here in Canada. The comparison shows a clear improvement in civilization and human rights, but is utterly unrelated to oil production—and certainly no excuse for the irreversable environmental damage caused by it.
Still, as a metric to mark gay acceptance in the country, I suppose this is an interesting development. We gays are now officially considered more acceptable than tar sands in the public eye.
And while I’d rather the money used for this campaign go toward developing, say, cleaner energy sources, I guess this is as close to flattery as you can get from large, morally void corporations. So, uh, cheers to that… I guess.
Jan Buterman, a transgender substitute teacher, was fired from the St. Albert Catholic School Board back in 2009 for, well, being transgendered. “Since you made a personal choice to change your gender,” a termination letter delivered to Buterman stated, “we have to remove you from the substitute teacher list.”
Jan didn’t take this lightly, as you might imagine. Under threat of civil action, the school board has since offered a substantial settlement to avoid bringing the case to the courts or human rights tribunals. Included with the settlement, however, was a confidentiality agreement which would have forbidden Buterman to speak about his firing and the circumstances surrounding it.
Money in exchange for shutting up, eh? I wouldn’t have thought that was consistent with Catholic teachings, but there you go. I spent my entire grade school education within this very school board and they’re still teaching me new things. (Go, uh, Skyhawks, was it?)
Anyway, if it’s not already obvious by the mere fact we’re hearing this story, Jan is sticking to his principles and has soundly rejected the muzzling settlement. As a prominent trans activist, he said, it would be unacceptable to not be able to speak about the injustices people like him face.
It’s expected that Jan will now be off to the Alberta human rights commission next to have his case heard. Alberta’s human rights legislation is a little iffy in this area, as trans rights are not explicitly protected, so something tells me this won’t be the last time this story is featured on this site. Stay tuned!
Let’s start the week with some good news, why not?
The Edmonton Public School District has voted 8-1 to adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward homophobia in each of its schools, making it the first city in the province to officially take such a stance.
The new policy, which will now be researched and drafted by a committee, will ensure that GLBT students in Edmonton will have the support systems they need, and that GLBT staff cannot be discriminated against for their sexual orientation.
Edmonton has always been a little more forward-thinking than other cities in Alberta when it comes to equal rights for the GLBT community, having elected the provinces’ first gay politician (Michael Phair) in 1992, and generally supporting equal rights earlier than elsewhere in the province. It also produced me, Mark, which is very foward-thinking, if I may say so.
At any rate, congratulations Edmonton for supporting students’ rights and helping put an end to homophobic bullying! Here’s hoping other school boards follow suit.
Well, it’s better late than never: Alberta removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders that doctors can charge the province for treating late last month.
The American Psychological Association delisted homosexuality as a disorder 38 years ago, but Alberta tends to fall a tad behind the times. (A metric tad being 38 years, for those who don’t know.)
Unusually, some doctors in the province had used the code as recently as 2005, and I’d be very interested in finding out who these doctors are.
Fortunately, Gene Zwozdesky, the minister for Alberta Health and Wellness under Ed Stelmach’s Conservative government, removed the classification as soon as it came to his attention. “I ordered the immediate removal of something I thought was incorrect, unacceptable, rather ancient in its thinking and otherwise demeaning,” he told the press. And good for him; that was exactly the right course of action.
I interned for Alberta Health and Wellness briefly between my undergrad and masters degree. And let me tell you, if I had known about this… Well, I wouldn’t have had any semblance of authority to change things, but you can rest assured that I would have brewed the weakest pot of coffee that the Health Accountability Division had ever tasted.
Update: As if this story wasn’t already incredible, Slap reader Kevin has informed me that Québec, my own province, is even further behind Alberta and still lists homosexuality as a billable mental disorder.
I looked through the French media and couldn’t find much attention to the story, but the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec has indicated that they’ll be fixing the oversight after the holidays, which should be any day now. According to an interview with Le Journal du Québec, The RAMQ says homosexuality has been listed for all these years because they’ve got an old computer system and couldn’t update to the World Health Organisation’s latest codes.
Gee, I’m sympathetic. Except the WHO removed homosexuality from their IDC codes back in 1992. I guess that means we’ve got some old computer system here in Québec!
Gay people put up with a lot of abuse. Umpires, too. I imagine, then, it’s not easy being a gay umpire. Just ask Billy Van Raaphorst.
On July 31st, after two Edmonton players were tossed out for misbehaving at a minor league game, Van Raaphorst found himself enduring a spectacular assault by the team’s manager, Brent Bowers. The homophobic tirade, complete with slurs, obscenities, threats, and gestures involving grabbed ankles, shocked onlookers.
The scene was reportedly so offensive that other umpires refused to officiate games for the entire Golden Baseball League until Bowers was punished—which he was, late last week. Originally given an unsatisfactory two-day suspension, the league eventually decided upon a $5000 fine along with a suspension for the rest of the year. Bowers has since resigned.
Probably for the best, too. His team lost all three games that weekend, 3–2, 6–2, and 2–1. Ouch!
The Kings Glory Fellowship, a Protestant church in Calgary, Alberta, has lost their tax exempt status because they spent too much time involved in political activities outside the church, including actively campaigning against gay rights.
Religious officials are pretty miffed, including Calgary’s Bishop Fred Henry, who said this incident was “clearly meant to muzzle religious leaders.”
Yes, I can see it now… Dusk falls at the offices of Canada Revenue Agency. The government’s tax regulators congregate in full accountant regalia, sworn brothers in a secret plot to locate Calgary’s religious leaders and attach leather jaw restraints while they sleep.
I’m actually a little disappointed that the truth is so much more boring.
Tax exemptions, you see, are only available for charitable causes, not political ones. If a church wishes to actively affect policy for those that have nothing to do with its religion or beliefs, it becomes part of the public sphere and must contribute to it with income and property taxes. Once they do, they’re free to go outside of their congregations to lecture, publish, organize, put on charming foil hats, bang on pots and pans for effect, terrorize minority groups with neon placards, and do all the other things that wacky, anti-gay lobby and activist groups do. No leather jaw restraints required.
If a church doesn’t want to contribute to the public realm with taxes, then they can abide by their own decision and limit their political influence to inside their private congregations. Well, at least 90% of their influence, anyway. They’re allowed 10% for some reason. See? Who said the CRA isn’t generous?
The Calgary Stampede, Calgary’s annual carnival and rodeo, has launched a marketing research survey that asks respondents for opinions on blatantly sexist and homophobic statements. Gems include “The only acceptable definition of a family is a husband, wife and children,” and “Some jobs are best suited to men. Women should just accept this.”
Doug Fraser, a spokesperson for the Stampede, said that the statements don’t reflect the opinions of the Stampede, but are part of an standard research package to help develop a product that reflects a “rapidly changing community.”
Oh, I get it! They’re not being homophobic and sexist at all; they just want to tailor a unique Calgary Stampede experience to people that are. How thoughtful!
Yvonne Brouwers, president of the research firm that developed the statements, said that the questions have been used without incident for 15 years and are designed to identify divisive opinions to “get a better understanding of differences and similarities.”
Yep, those statements sound 15 years old alright. I wonder what ads and events they’ll help shape…
- Stampede accused of sexist, homophobic market research [Marketing Magazine]
Alberta’s strange new law requiring teachers to notify parents before tackling any lessons dealing with sexual orientation has been delayed until next year so that the school boards can prepare formal procedures.
The Alberta Teacher Association as well as several large municipal school boards was against this bill from the start, but the provincial Conservative government has so far been adamant that the law is necessary for parents to be able to pull their children out of classes, preventing them from learning anything about gay issues.
The law was part of a revision to the Human Rights Act, which means that any teachers who violate the new law will see themselves before the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
The whole thing is a bad idea, so sparing an extra year’s worth of children from all this is welcome news. Too bad it’s not delayed indefinitely.
When Edmonton’s Pride Parade organisers invited Conservative MLA Doug Elniski to join in the festivities last week and be among the first-ever Tory participants, they probably hadn’t guessed he’d be Twittering and posting to his conservative blog at the same time. While waving to the crowd alongside three of his colleagues, Elniski proceeded to mock the event and its participants in real-time on his public Twitter account. Class act, that Doug!
While the controversial tweets have since been scrubbed clean and his entire blog has been deleted altogether (it hasn’t escaped Google’s cached copy, mind you), here are just a few of his observations:
i am surrounded by bumping and grinding lesbians waiit 20 then send help
i am certian that one is real those however i doubt
Darkest humor was either “Dyke’s on Bikes” or “Queers for Beers” the latter was a particular irony as most of the people in the beer garden were drinking pink coolers
I am SOOOOOOOOOOOO glad it did not rain, had it rained there would have been so much mascara, glitter and cake makeup on the roads we’d have needed one of those sweepers that follow the horses in the Capital Ex parade.
It was ‘just’ a parade, relax
It’s kind of a nice gesture simply joining the parade in the first place, but it’s disappointing for an invited participant to not acknowledge the meaning behind Pride parades. Contrary to what Doug wrote, it’s not “just a parade,” but also a celebration and protest in commemoration of a minority’s struggle. While I can’t blame Doug for revelling in the spectacle of some of the more flashy groups, I don’t think he cares much for the underlying purpose. An even more recent blog post of his directed toward young women has gotten some bad press, and reveals that he’s, sadly, pretty much just a creep:
Men are attracted to smiles, so smile and don’t give me that “treated equal” stuff, if you want equal it comes in little packages at Starbucks.
Yeah, who needs equality when we’ve got aspartame?
(Thanks to Tamara for sending this story along!)
- ‘Men are attracted to smiles,’ Alberta MLA advised girls on blog [CBC News]
- Tweeting MLA angers local gays, lesbians [Edmonton SUN]
NDP MP Bill Siksay, fresh off of introducing the trans-friendly Bill C-389, has introduced a new bill that would ensure gender reassignment surgery is available and covered by our health care system.
Gender reassignment, though poorly understood by the general population, can radically improve the lives of transgendered individuals at a negligible cost to the health care system.
This bill would have been unnecessary, except that Alberta delisted sex reassignment surgery from public health coverage in April, claiming that it was necessary to help save the economy. Alberta officials supposedly wrote a report containing all the facts to back this claim up, but the dog ate it. Plus, there weren’t any working pens or pencils in their house. And they didn’t know it was due today, anyway.
- NDP MP Bill Siksay calls for coverage of sex reassignment surgery [The Georgia Straight]
The Alberta legislature has passed a bill that requires teachers to receive parental permission before discussing or acknowledging topics of sexual orientation in the curriculum, or else face being brought before the Human Rights Commission for violating parental rights.
This means, very soon, teachers will be at risk of being brought before a tribunal if they acknowledge gay issues without first taking care to selectively evacuate students from the classroom. Not only does this send a terrible message to gay students—that topics about their lives pose such a profound hazard that their classmates’ attendance must be filtered based on privilege—but it enables and reinforces schoolyard bullying through that same knowledge.
So how did such a controversial bill pass so effortlessly? The wordsmithing employed by its supporters offers some clues. In the comments section of a National Post article I linked to on Friday, a supporter of the bill wrote: “The core issue here is who has the right to shape the minds of children, individuals or the State.” This simplification is a real eye-opener. Are those the only two options that supporters see? What about, say, the students being able to shape their own minds?
By the time students are old enough to be introduced to sexual education in the curriculum, they are citizens of their own right. For a guardian to forcibly bar a student from hearing information and viewpoints other than their own is not only narrow-minded, but irresponsible. Astonishingly, though, it seems bill proponents don’t view students as inquisitive minds that are capable of forming their own views; rather, they are seen as a form of human property for whom it is the exclusive right of the guardian to indoctrinate as they see fit. It is no wonder, then, that these parents see open classroom discussions and the analysis of opposing viewpoints as an affront to their plan—a way to undo the views they wish to force into their child, unchallenged via the careful censorship of information.
In this light, it actually begins to make sense that, since some parents wish to coercively inbue uncontested beliefs into their child, they project that same behaviour onto the state. Anti-bullying programs and lessons that include acknowledgement of gay persons, they think, must be part of some agenda to brainwash and take control of the younger generation. Why, I bet they even think my subliminal messages and short-wave thought injection gun are being used for more than just corporate advertising.
Still, what a sad day for education and enlightenment in Alberta.
In my web travels, I often collect stories that I intend to share, but then become distracted by newer, shinier stories—or feel too lazy to illustrate them individually. This is what becomes of those stories: a Pile o’ Slaps!
A Texan mayor has announced that he’s leaving the States to legally live with his lover, a gay, illegal immigrant. In other news, conservative Texans have been mysteriously exploding.
A progressive church in Québec has embraced the silly “Adam and Steve” play on words, erecting a large anti-homophobia poster with the slogan: “Si Jésus aimait Jean, pourquoi pas Adam et Steve?” Or, if I may flex my translation skills: “If Jesus loved John, why not Adam and Steve?”, referring to a popular French expression about John being “the disciple Jesus loved.” Already, the sign has caused controversy as some residents complain about its proximity to a school bus stop, and one enraged mother declaring “I don’t care what people do in their bedroom but I don’t have a picture of my husband and I naked with a fig leaf in front of our crotch outside my house.” Err… Does that mean she doesn’t use the fig leaf?
Still on the topic of Québec, the province has announced that they will be launching an anti-homophobia campaign by the end of the year. The campaign has been confirmed to be province wide, hopefully referring to Alberta—where it’s needed most.
Speaking of which, the Alberta legislature is very, very close to passing the inappropriate Bill 44, legislation that will require teachers to receive parental permission before mentioning any gay topics in class, and to pull out any students whose parents don’t approve. A good clue that this is a terrible idea: The National Post, Canada’s largest right-wing newspaper, is already referring to it as hillbilly human rights.
Slap reader John writes in with a story about a gay student who successfully ran as his high school’s homecoming queen, complete with tiara rights. Congratulations!
Finally, Canada’s capital city is examining the health of its arts scene and nightlife as more and more gay Ottawans leave for larger neighbouring cities, such as Toronto and Montréal. It’s what city officials are dubbing the “gay brain drain,” but, uh, are they absolutely sure it’s due to the arts scene and not, say, proximity to Stephen Harper?
Well, that’s all for this Pile o’ Slaps! Until next time, have a great weekend kids!
One of Canada’s largest anti-gay lobby groups is seizing on Alberta’s Bill 44, a proposed amendment to the Human Rights Act that would disallow teachers from mentioning or discussing gay topics in front of students that did not receive parental permission.
The bill is ominously vague—a point which has piqued the interests of Brian Rushfelt, head of Canada Family Action Coalition. “It’s up to the parent to make [the legislation] as broad or narrow as they want,” he said, adding that neither “the schools nor the government should be the ones to put parameters on it and say it’s only sexuality classes or only evolution classes or only religion classes.”
Anti-gay lobby groups have been actively opposing measures to prevent the bullying of gay students for years, but now may have a new tool beyond the mere lobbying of school boards to get what they want. Parents, according to Rushfeldt, should file human rights complaints against teachers who promote tolerance of gay students so that the boundaries of the new law can be broadened. Broadened, of course, in a means befitting only to those crazy enough to devote time to this nonsense.
This proposed abuse should be enough evidence for even supporters to reconsider the bill, but the real flaw lies within its intended uses. The effect of this legislation is to always postpone discussion of gay rights, student reports on gay historical figures and role models, anti-bullying campaigns, and sexual education information until all parents can be consulted. But parents who want their children to be able to actively examine different sides of issues as they arise, who wish for spontaneous discussion to be encouraged, whose lives—if they are gay—will now be treated as a topic so dangerous that all discussion of it must be halted until every student’s family gives their blessing to proceed, and who would have to see their child’s fellow classmates ushered out into the hallway when their family is up for discussion, would have no say in any of these matters if Bill 44 passes.
Although, come of think of it, this bill may have its uses, too. Why, I actually heard of a teacher once explaining that her name was changed to “Mrs. so-and-so” because she had just married her husband. Can you imagine? Flaunting her heterosexuality and the myriad bedroom implications it entails to the whole class! And don’t even get me started on lessons that contradict the teachings of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
- Parents must get say in all teaching, group says [Calgary Herald]
Natalie Jones, a sixth grade student in San Diego, has been disallowed from reading her history report on Harvey Milk, the United State’s first openly gay and tragically slain politician, until her fellow classmates receive permission from their parents to hear it.
Theresa Grace, the principal of the girl’s elementary school, said that a school board policy forbids the teaching of any topics that include discussions of sexual orientation without first receiving parental permission.
Sound both absurd and familiar? It should! Ted Morton, a Conservative MLA in Alberta, has thrice tried to introduce a bill that would implement the same policy province-wide. And now Lindsay Blackett, a Conservative cabinet minister, has introduced a similar bill that would require teachers to pull students out of class unless they have permission to hear reports like Natalie’s.
I guess I can see where they’re coming from, though. I was involuntarily and irreversibly transformed into a homosexual after hearing too much of a classmate’s report on the Enola Gay.
- Sixth Grader Denied Right to Freely Present Report on Harvey Milk [Digital Journal]
- ACLU says school censored student’s Milk report [Yahoo News]