Before pride month ends, the NDP wants the Sask. Party to agree to pass the bill that addresses bullying and allows students of any publicly funded school to set up a GSA, a gender and sexuality alliance, also called a gay straight alliance.
The Respect for Diversity – Student Bill of Rights Act is private member’s bill introduced by the NDP. It addresses bullying and cyberbullying, gives students with a disability the right to be accommodated and requires all schools that receive public funding to help any student that asks to establish a GSA. The bill has found immense support during pride month in Saskatchewan.
“People have approached New Democrat MLAs and candidates during pride events to say what that bill means to them. People tell us that having a GSA when they were a student would have made a huge difference,” said NDP deputy leader Trent Wotherspoon, who will march in the pride parade in Regina on Saturday.
“We’ve also heard from students who say they were turned away when they asked for a GSA in their school. It’s time to take the pressure off these kids and make the right to form a GSA law. Whether it’s a friend or family member or someone we read about in the news, we all know a child for whom this law will come too late.”
Statistics show that 64 per cent of gender and sexually diverse students feel unsafe at schools. 80 per cent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) youth report being bullied. 50 per cent of all LGBTQ youth have thought about suicide. Having GSAs established in a school for three or more years reduces rates of discrimination, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts by half.
“GSAs save lives,” said Wotherspoon. “We’ve had hundreds of people lining up to sign a petition to call on the Sask. Party to pass this law; and. Kids shouldn’t have to be the leaders in fighting for their safety and their rights here – that should be up to us.”
Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick already have similar GSA laws.
The NDP bill was introduced by David Forbes, the critic for Diversity, Equality and Human Rights, in the spring.