An opposition-led bill that requires all territorial schools to have safe spaces in the form of activities and organizations dedicated to LGBTQ2S+ students is becoming law.
“I am so proud and so excited at all the work everyone’s done because we’ve just passed a law that means that there’s going to be safe spaces, [gender and sexuality alliances] and activities in every school in the Yukon,” NDP MLA Emily Tredger, who is also put forward the bill, said in an April 20 interview with the News following the vote.
“It’s almost surreal that it’s actually happened,” Tredger, who is the third party house leader, said after nearly a month of debating the bill.
Yukon MLAs in the House voted 15 - 0 in favour of Bill 304.
During debate on the bill, Yukon Party MLA Brad Cathers, who was not present for the vote, urged members to allow for more public consultation on the bill.
Tredger told members she is happy to sit down with the Catholic school board, but will not be delaying the bill to do so.
“If standing up for queer and trans rights is dividing society, that is what I will do and I will continue to do every single day that I am in this Legislature, and of all the days to be in this Legislature, this is a good day,” Tredger said in the interview.
“I was a little surprised that not everyone voted, but I was really grateful for the support of all the colleagues because I do think this is really important for Yukoners and for Yukon students,” Tredger told the News.
Fifteen-year-old Val Thompson of Porter Creek Secondary School was one of several students and school representatives who observed the vote in the Yukon Legislative Assembly on April 20.
Thompson expressed feeling supported, “really happy” and “on the verge of crying” during an interview after the vote.
“It means to help better our society for those who are going to be after me,” Thompson said.
“I wasn’t expecting this to happen.”
During debate before the vote in the Yukon Legislature on April 20, Premier Sandy Silver called it a “unicorn” bill, marking the first time in a decade that an opposition-led bill passed in the House.
Bill 304 modifies the Education Act under the section on duties of school principals to ensure that at the beginning of each school year there are initiatives in the school that promote equality and non-discrimination.
Those initiatives must include student activities relating to gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. The initiatives may also include, without limitation, student organizations promoting equality and non-discrimination, such as a gender and sexuality alliance.
“I think it’s really important that no matter what school you go to, no matter who your principal is, no matter who your teachers are, you have these spaces,” Tredger said in the interview.
An amendment moved by Liberal MLA John Streicker axed the proposed requirement for school principal duties to involve designating a staff member or responsible adult to lead initiatives in the school that promote equality and non-discrimination.
In a statement issued April 20 following the vote, Jeanie McLean, who is the Education minister and minister of Women and Gender Equity, said the government has worked closely with the LGBTQ2S+ community and identified a number of actions that are needed to improve equality and safety in the territory.
“Through the action plan released in 2021, we have committed to implementing sexual orientation and gender identity policies and supporting gender and sexuality alliances and similar clubs in Yukon schools,” McLean said in the statement.
“We know that every school will take a different approach to this and we believe that flexibility is important. Bill 304 aligns with the actions of the LGBTQ2S+ action plan and will support safe, inclusive schools across the Yukon.”
Contact Dana Hatherly at email@example.com