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The 24 hour activist

The 24 hour activist


Dec 04, 2014

I want to tell you about today.  For you, it probably wasn’t a particularly different day and that’s great. But for me, it was a day that I never want to forget. And since I started this blog eight years ago, to write about the things happening in my life, I wanted to write about today, in case I ever forget about it. Although I don’t see how that would be possible.

I don’t know what you know about Alberta, but it’s a tricky province. It’s a beautiful province. It’s a successful province. But it’s also a troubled province. It’s a province that, while it has made advancements in recent years, still struggles with equality. Actually, it’s just the government that struggles with equality, but I’ll get to that.

This week, Alberta talked a lot about Gay Straight Alliances. It’s okay if you don’t know what those are, they were new to me too. We certainly didn’t have them when I was in school. A Gay Straight Alliance is a club, which research has shown to saves the lives of both gay and straight kids. It also cuts down significantly on bullying in every school in which you can find a GSA.  But there lies the problem, you can’t find a GSA in every school. Out of the 2,000 plus schools in Alberta, there are only 94 GSAs. None of them in religious school boards.

So last week, the Liberals tried to pass a bill that will make it mandatory for a school to provide a GSA, should one be asked for.  Some more information: A GSA does not affect curriculum, education or even the teachers. It’s a student-led club, which takes place in the school after school is done, or over lunch hour. There’s nothing mandatory about GSAs, except for the fact that school boards shouldn’t be allowed to deny them.

The PC government has long been in charge in Alberta. They’re almost as sure as snow in September. They didn’t like Bill 202, because for whatever reason, they think religious schools should have a right to deny GSAs to students. So, without any consultation, they put forward Bill 10.  In this bill, a student who asked for a GSA would have to ask their principal, should it be denied, they’d have to go to the school board, should it be denied there, they’d have to go to the courts. “Luckily”, the PCs later changed the last part after much outcry. Sadly, they didn’t make it any better. Should that same student be denied at the School Board level, they would then have to go to the Education Minister, who would then provide a GSA, but not necessarily in the school.

Basically, a thirteen-year-old, would have to be publicly tortured and segregated for months before they got that very club that all politicians agree save lives.

It was frustrating to watch.

So what do I do? What can I do? What do I do as a gay guy? What do I do as I writer? What do I do as an Albertan?

Without getting into the super boring details of legislative procedure, basically on Thursday night, all hope was lost. That’s what happens a lot when you have a political party that also looks a lot like a dynasty.

I asked this question:

A few people responded saying basically: “You do it.” Ugh. A protest? Everyone hates those. A demonstration? Ugh. Intolerable. And besides do they do any good. Would we convince any MLAs to change their mind? I sat on it for a few hours and forced myself to make a decision: Am I in or am I out. No pun intended. So then I made a decision:

  I also, took an hour or so to tweet every single LGTBQ Canadian I could think of, including KD Lang, Tegan and Sara and Rick Mercer. I think I sent about fifty tweets. Most people responded.

 


In fact, Tegan and Sara wrote an entire blog post about it.

After announcing that I’d be going down to the McDougall Centre (the Premier’s Calgary residence) to wave a Pride flag or two. I didn’t think much of it. I swear that I thought four or five people would show up. But I would be fine with four or five people, because it’s Canada and we’re more than welcome to speak in the public. But when I awoke around 6:30am, it was like I woke up in a different province. Almost as soon as I wiped the sleep from my eyes, my phone was going crazy with people wondering how they could help. I almost immediately did interviews with X929 and Virgin Calgary.  Then the tweets, emails, messages and everything basically didn’t stop until, well, they still haven’t stopped.

From the time I got up until the 12:30pm Pride celebration, I did four more interviews. One of them asked me a very interesting question: Was I nervous that Jim Prentice would come out during our celebration.  I assumed that wouldn’t be an issue because I thought he’d be in Edmonton. The reporter seemed confused. Wasn’t the choice of location and time of my Pride celebration to coincide with the Jim Prentice and Chris Christie (Governor of NJ) press conference, which was to take place just mere feet from our celebration?  I can tell you that it was a complete coincidence. I had no idea.

Of course it worked in my favour, because all the media basically walked out of the Prentice press conference and joined the Pride Celebration outside. They asked him about it, and he had no comment.  Actually, when I arrived, to start setting up, I thought the media was outside waiting for Prentice.

“No, we’re here for you.”

Whoa.

The next hour was quite a blur. I can tell you that I think I did an interview with every media outlet in the city. The fact that they all wanted to interview me, just a normal guy, shows how far equality has come in Alberta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, I truly never intended to be the spokesperson. I can show you the twenty emails I sent asking someone to be the spokesperson. But everyone thought that I should do it.

So, there I was. Six or seven cameras pointing at me, six or seven more microphones and about sixty people. Sixty people. I honestly couldn’t believe. At one point, I gave a small speech and stopped in the middle of it, looked around and whispered aloud: “This was crazy. I can’t believe I’m doing this.” I felt like Jenny Gump.

cover

(Photo via CBC)

I couldn’t believe so many people came out on a cold day, with only four or five hours notice and were listening so attentively.

It was crazy.

The next few hours were historic, if nothing else.  About four hours after our Pride Celebration, the Premier announced that Bill 10 is on hold indefinitely. It’s good, not great. Students still can’t have GSAs in all schools, but at least the school boards can’t use legislation to say “no.”

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 11.07.51 PM

I think the craziest part was being identified as an activist. I had never thought of that before and I’m not sure it’s something I want to hear all the time.  I get that I have a lot of followers and with that, maybe some people listen. But I’m just a guy, standing in front of his province, asking them not to be terrible.  If someone felt encouraged by that, especially a kid struggling with how hard it is to be a teenager, and it is so hard to be a teenager, than that’s good enough for me.

So, not to show off or brag, but here’s all the media clips from today. It’s pretty incredible. I couldn’t have done it without the Calgary media being so willing to side on the right side of history. It’s something I won’t forget it. I couldn’t if I wanted to.

A lot of people did a lot of things to stop this bill. In less than a day, more 4,000 Albertans used SafeSchoolsAlberta.ca to send their MLA a letter. There were the people who showed up to the Pride celebration, there was another demonstration in Edmonton later that day. the calls, the letters, the emails, the smoke signals. Everything. Every Albertan did something today.  And that’s pretty freakin’ awesome.

 

Global News (Early News):
http://globalnews.ca/video/1709599/early-news-dec-4-4

Calgary Herald:
http://calgaryherald.com/news/politics/braid-prentice-calls-halt-to-bill-10-after-week-of-turmoil

http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/pc-governments-controversial-bill-on-gay-straight-student-clubs-sparks-protest-in-calgary

 

CBC Calgary:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/gay-straight-alliance-bill-needs-some-work-says-calgary-mayor-naheed-nenshi-1.2861340

CBC’s The National:
http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/ID/2626033601/

CTV Noon News:
http://calgary.ctvnews.ca/video?binId=1.1201954

CTV Evening news:
http://calgary.ctvnews.ca/video?binId=1.1201914

660 News:
http://www.660news.com/2014/12/04/impromptu-pride-celebration-to-be-held-at-mcdougall-centre-in-response-to-bill-10/

The Calgary Sun:
http://www.calgarysun.com/2014/12/04/dozens-swarm-calgary-to-support-gay-straight-alliances-decry-bill-10

http://www.calgarysun.com/2014/12/05/contentious-gay-straight-alliance-bill-on-hold-but-dont-celebrate-victory-just-yet

AM 770:
https://twitter.com/MLumsden770/status/540588492900691968

Gay Calgary
http://www.gaycalgary.com/Magazine.aspx?article=4409#.VIEnlrqTNoc.facebook


Comments

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