Alberta threatens to defund schools over GSA rules as controversy swirls around 'vile' comments
In this file photo, Alberta Education Minister David Eggen speaks to the media in Edmonton on Wednesday November 15, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Jason Franson)
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, November 15, 2018 8:49AM EST
EDMONTON -- Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney says it is up to the United Conservative Party's board to decide whether to expel a member who compared the LGBTQ rainbow flag to the swastika.
Kenney told reporters he does not have the power to force John Carpay out of the party, even though Kenney announced two weeks ago he had directed the party to pull the card of another member following reported links to that member and a white supremacist website.
"It's our board that deals with expulsions," Kenney told reporters Wednesday.
"I condemned Mr. Carpay's remarks as being vile and offensive," he added.
"He does not in any way speak for the United Conservative party. He apologized for and retracted his offensive remarks, and that means something."
Kenney called for a consistent standard. He noted in 2017 NDP deputy premier Sarah Hoffman compared supporters of the former Wildrose party to "sewer rats."
"(Hoffman) didn't resign as deputy premier, let alone as a member of the NDP," said Kenney.
The United Conservatives have been dealing with several members who have been expressing bigoted or hateful views, and Kenney says they have no place in the party.
Two weeks ago, Kenney announced he had directed the party to pull the membership of a former campaign worker after reports that Adam Strashok was behind an online store that sells white supremacist memorabilia.
"I have since instructed party officials to cancel Mr. Strashok's membership," Kenney said in an Oct. 30 statement.
Asked to explain the discrepancy, Kenney denied cancelling Strashok's membership.
"I actually don't have that authority. It's up to the board," he said, adding "I think there was a consensus that that should happen. The board reflected it in a vote."
Carpay heads the advocacy group Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which is currently in court on behalf of 25-faith based schools challenging the provincial law mandating that schools set up gay-straight alliances in schools if students wish to have them.
Gay-straight alliances are peer support networks organized by students to help gay kids feel welcome and to prevent bullying or abuse.
Carpay's group is arguing the law violates multiple charter freedoms, including freedom of religion and expression.
Some of those schools have continued to resist demands from the province to comply with the law and to prominently post affirmation of student rights including the right to set up a GSA.
Also Wednesday, Education Minister David Eggen said he has directed 28 private schools to post the information prominently on their websites or face the loss of public funding starting in the fall of 2019.
"I sincerely hope that we do not need to take this step, but I have been clear," said Eggen. "Following this law is not optional. Ensuring that vulnerable students feel safe is not optional."
The schools receive up to 70 per cent of their funding from the province.
The Justice Centre, in a news release, said, "(Eggen's) order effectively replaces the schools' own policies, which respect the unique religious character and identity of each school, with policies mandated by government."
Kenney applauded Eggen's efforts but urged him to continue to work with the schools rather than issue threats.
"Our party supports gay-straight alliances and the ability of students to create those and supportive peer groups," said Kenney.
"We also support the freedom of religion of independent schools, for example, and (Eggen) has objected to some pretty garden-variety statements of faith that some of these schools have in their governance documents."