Edmonton School Board Should Respect Transgender Policy


September 16, 2015: Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann welcomed comments today by Education Minister David Eggen calling on the Edmonton Catholic School Board to produce an inclusivity policy to protect Transgender students.

“I am grateful that the minister has gone on record on this important issue of ensuring respectful and inclusive schools,” says Swann. “The school board has a duty under law to provide an inclusive and safe environment for these students, regardless of gender identity or gender expression.”

Last night the trustees of the Edmonton Catholic School Board deferred a policy on inclusivity arising out of a request by a transgender elementary student to use the girls’ washroom. The deferral followed a long and often tense discussion surrounding the needs of transgender students and the nature of discrimination.

Under section 45.1(1) of the School Act boards have a “responsibility to ensure that each student … is provided with a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that respects diversity”.

Swann added that this incident also highlights the need to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Alberta Human Rights Act.

“At last night’s board meeting there was a drawn out discussion about whether what this young girl had gone through even constituted discrimination,” noted Swann. “Clearly it did.

“What is needed is an explicit prohibition on discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. I hope the government will act on that as well.”



Merrifield Firing Should Spur Creation of Independent Appointments Commission


Following the firing of Alberta’s Senior Representative to the U.S. by the NDP government, Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann is once again calling for the creation of an independent public appointments commission to manage the recruitment and vetting process for candidates seeking appointments to agencies, boards and commissions and other key provincial positions.

“For decades, the former PC administration presided over an increasingly flawed and discredited public appointments process whereby political party affiliation gradually came to trump skill and experience,” says Swann. “We now have a tremendous opportunity in the first year of this new Alberta government to fix this repugnant aspect of the PC legacy.”

Alberta Liberals have long advocated for an independent appointments commission modeled after Ontario’s Public Appointments Secretariat. Such an idea has enjoyed support at all levels of government and among those of every political stripe.

Swann notes that there are important lessons to be learned from both Rob Merrifield’s hiring and dismissal.

Here you had an individual whose appointment seemed to be based solely on his connection to the former premier. When Albertans elected a new government, he was promptly shown the door,” says Swann.

“At no point in this entire saga was there ever any independent review of whether he was the right person – or indeed the wrong person – for the job. We can and should do better than that, and the obvious solution is having an independent commission pick the best candidate for the job among all interested and qualified persons.

Swann questioned Premier Notley about the creation of an independent appointments commission during the summer session.


Statement on the Syrian Refugee Crisis


September 8, 2015Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann issued the following statement:

“In the past week, Canadians learned of and witnessed several heart wrenching media accounts of Syrian refugees fleeing for safety from their war-torn homeland. Many of us saw the haunting image of young Aylan Kurdi, the drowned Syrian toddler, and shared the pain of his distraught and inconsolable father. Thousands of other refugees could no doubt recount similar stories of personal tragedy. 

“And while Canada can sometimes feel very far removed from international crises such as this, it is not hard to imagine the horror, fear and desperation that so many families are now experiencing. The world, once so large, is in many ways much smaller now. Indeed, many of us recall the sad plight of the Vietnamese boat people, and how our nation stepped up to welcome so many with open arms.    

“When an event such as that is viewed through the prism of today, the complete inadequacy of our federal government’s response under Stephen Harper is both painfully obvious and profoundly disappointing. Precious few countries on this planet have the means and the wherewithal to be a safe harbour in the tempest, and yet our federal government’s response is underwhelming at best – so much so that this effectively amounts to an abdication of who we are as a nation.

It is because of this that I am appealing to my fellow Canadians to once again step up and demonstrate to the world that we are a caring and resourceful people. Get involved. Contact a local charity or non-profit that you know can facilitate refugee sponsorship, or consider sponsoring a refugee along with your friends or faith community. If you do so, know that you will be saving a life.

“In my time as a physician working in South Africa, the Philippines and Iraq, I saw firsthand the dire consequences of when public policy fails to protect people. In such times, the only thing that people have is our common humanity.

“In the past Canada has often been a leader in helping those who are fleeing persecution or violence. Together, we can make a difference again.”