Rick Mercer rant on GSAs is dishonest analysis

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(This column originally appeared in the Toronto Sun)

By: Candice Malcolm

CBC comedian Rick Mercer jumped into an Alberta provincial debate, and in doing so, dragged the whole country in with him.

In one of Mercer’s “rants,” he attempts to tackle the issue of gay-straight alliance (GSA) clubs in Alberta schools. 

Unfortunately for Mercer, and for all Canadians, his rant was riddled with errors, partisan jeering and a dishonest analysis. To make matters worse for this once-great comedian, it wasn’t the least bit funny. 

For those who haven’t been following this issue in Alberta, the NDP government recently introduced legislation that would ban teachers from informing parents if their child joins a GSA. 

The issue isn’t whether GSAs should exist, but whether teachers are legally able to notify parents when they think it’s in the best interest of the child to do so.  

Conservatives oppose the law, not surprisingly given that conservatives generally believe parents and teachers, not politicians and bureaucrats, are best left in charge of handling these issues. 

An honest reading of this debate is that the NDP are worried that teachers will “out” gay teens who aren’t ready to tell their parents, and therefore believe we need a law banning all communication between teachers and parents regarding GSAs.

Conservatives, by contrast, say there are already laws to protect children from abusive parents, and in this case, it’s best left up to teachers, principals and school counsellors to exercise their judgement based on the uniqueness of each case.  

United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney (my old boss) said that “the law should neither force schools to release information to parents, nor should it create an adversarial relationship between parents and their children.”

In other words, leave it up to the judgement of the school based on the individual child. 

Imagine an actual case that was in the news recently.

A 12-year-old autistic girl had been attending GSA meetings. Because of these meetings, the school put her in counseling, started referring to her as a boy, and gave her a boy’s name at school. 

No one, however, shared this information with the parents, so for months this child was treated as a girl at home and a boy at school – creating obvious confusion, tension and frustration.

Under the new NDP law, it would be illegal for the school to seek the support of a child’s parents to help them through this type of life-altering decision.  

Rather than addressing any of the important nuances of the debate, Rick Mercer jumps in with an inflammatory and one-sided hot take. He uses his platform to take cheap shots and paint conservatives (and many parents) as homophobic bigots. 

Mercer’s rant concludes by saying that opposition to this NDP law is “all about outing young people.”

That clearly isn’t the case. Many parents, and many conservatives, have legitimate, honest and fair concerns with an intrusive law restricting the relationship between teachers and parents. 

It’s unfortunate that Rick Mercer, once a comedic icon admired by Canadians of different backgrounds, has chosen to use his star power to belittle Albertans and worsen a partisan divide. And it’s unfortunate that the CBC, the state broadcaster that is supposed to represent the views of all Canadians, insists on...(READ MORE)