Welcome To Pride Parade, Politicians! Don't Forget Pride Lasts ALL Year

This weekend marked the annual Pride Parade, a time when Calgary's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer (LGBTQ) population invites the city to join in a celebration of diversity and inclusion. And, I think it is great that so many politicians of all stripes are taking part in this parade where, just a short time ago, many were absent.

In fact, one of the many reasons that I am a Liberal is because of people like Laurie Blakeman, MLA Edmonton-Centre, who has been marching in pride parades for 20 plus years, long before it was fashionable to do so.

I am truly thankful that some of the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose MLAs joined to celebrate diversity and pay tribute to the values enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and human rights codes across this great nation. Even if it is sort like seeing Oilers fans on the Red Mile following a Flames playoff victory -- they are at the party, but I am not sure they were hoping for the same result.

Yet, I am still expecting more from our politicians. Someone who just shows up to the Pride Parade, but who does not follow up this action by trying to move the cause of LGBTQ rights forward, is merely going through the motions and seeking respect for being seen.

Now, with the participation of all Alberta's political parties in this year's Pride Parade, it is my sincere hope that we can finally close the dark chapter of the past, celebrate diversity, and embrace human rights. After all, we were the last province to recognize sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination, and we were the last province to recognize same-sex marriages as a valid form of relationship.

Discriminatory legislation still remains on the books, which needs to be repealed and replaced by inclusive legislation that fully incorporates and supports our LGBTQ citizens.

Take, for example, Motion 503, which I introduced earlier this year, calling on the government to make it mandatory for school boards to support Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) in any school where students feel they are needed to protect against bullying. The reason for this is simple: LGBTQ students are bullied at far greater rates, drop out of school more often, and commit suicide as a result of discrimination. Research shows that the establishment of GSAs in schools, not only reduces rates of bullying for LGBTQ students, but decreases it for all students in the school. It is an idea whose time has come. GSAs must be made available in all our various school systems.

We also need to repeal Section 11.1 of the Alberta Human Rights Act, which is a slap in the face to LGBTQ people across this province. There is no need for this reference in our human rights code, and it is, in fact, a disservice to our education system that paints people of different sexual orientations as something to be feared.

If my friends and colleagues can find it within themselves to make these changes, then we will all truly be able to march together with even more pride next year.

I would like to salute those who have boldly participated in Pride events in the past for moving human rights forward in this great province. And, I would, once again, like to thank those who participated for the first time in this weekend's Pride celebrations in Calgary. Thank you all for making life better for LGBTQ citizens.

This blog post was initially posted on the Huffington Post. You can read the Huffington Post article online here.

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