Protesters clash in Alberta over transgender rights bill
Dario Balca , CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, May 15, 2016 11:25AM EDT
Protesters clashed in front of the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton on Saturday over a controversial bill that establishes new guidelines for gender expression in schools.
Bill 10 was passed in 2015 by the province’s then-Conservative government.
The legislation focuses on students’ rights to access gay-straight alliances and has led to a push for accommodations, including all-gender washrooms in schools.
School boards across the province have since created policies to implement the new law, based on guidelines provided by the current NDP government.
On Saturday, about 200 members of Edmonton’s LGBTQ community gathered in front of the Alberta Legislature, demanding greater real-life implementation of the bill.
The activists said Bill 10 is a step in the right direction, but discrimination is still rampant in the province.
“They fear me in the men’s room and they fear me in the women’s room, and that’s the whole point. They’d rather they didn’t have to see me at all,” said Mickey Wilson, a transgender man and the executive director of Edmonton’s Pride Centre.
“We’re protected here in Alberta already, (but) accommodation is required.”
But across the square, anti-Bill 10 protesters led by the group Parents for Choice in Education argued the law ignores children’s family values.
“Bill 10 fundamentally and profoundly undermines the parents’ choice to provide the kind of education that should be given to their children,” said Theresa Ng, one of the group’s members.
Others at the rally said those with conservative values are the ones facing discrimination.
One man said he accepts that gay and transgender students have rights, but “the other kids in the school also have rights.”
Wilson said, however, the resistance to the bill can be expected during any rights movement.
“It’s been 25 or 35 years,” he said. “This is the same argument we’ve been having about human rights throughout many identities.”
Support for all-gender washrooms grows in Winnipeg
Meanwhile, LGBTQ activists in Winnipeg are pushing to make all-gender washrooms mandatory.
“These are necessary things assigned to the times,” Pride Winnipeg’s Shandi Strong told CTV Winnipeg. “These are the (trans) people that are coming to your schools and your businesses and this is the way we have to work.”
Strong said she remembers what it was like to be forced to choose between the men and women’s washroom.
“You’re terrified, whichever choice you make,” she said.
But several Winnipeg businesses have already started offering all-gender facilities.
“There are more than just two genders in the world…so let’s make a safe space for everybody,” said Amanda Kinden, the owner of Oh Doughnuts, a recently opened business that includes a gender-neutral restroom.
Kinden said she doesn’t want anyone to feel ostracized.
Others proponents of all-gender washrooms say the facilities are not only inclusive for trans people, but also help parents.
“I have kids and it was something that we always struggled with…when I want to bring my little boy into the ladies’ room and people will look strange at that,” Nicole Barry, owner of the Peg Beer Co., said.
The University of Manitoba has also started offering gender-neutral washrooms.
The issue has been pushed into the spotlight in recent weeks.
Last week, the Obama administration said U.S. public schools must permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity. The guidance came amid a court fight between the federal government and North Carolina.
With files from CTV Edmonton and CTV Winnipeg