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    Sandy Silver interview April 8, 2022 CHONfm

LGBTQ2S+ safe spaces could soon be mandatory in Yukon schools

“Having a GSA in a school can improve the mental health of youth,” said one student.

Lou Morningstar said being a part of their school’s GSA has been a positive experience (photo by CHONfm/Dylan MacNeil).

Lou Morningstar of Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation is a gender fluid grade 12 student at Porter Creek Secondary School in Whitehorse.

 

Morningstar is member of their school’s Gay Sexuality Alliance (GSA).

 

“My experience has been a positive one. It’s a very welcoming space,” Morningstar told CHONfm.

 

When they first started high school there was no GSA, but by their second year, some students came together to start one. Before that Morningstar could be found spending their lunch in either a hallway or stairwell.

 

“It’s usually not that great of a space because sometimes people would walk by and sometimes step on my foot,” they said.

 

The GSA is place where students hang out, talk about what’s going on in their lives, and support one another.

 

“Having a GSA in a school can improve the mental health of youth,” they said. “Sometimes their parents aren’t very supportive of their gender, their sexuality, or something like that. So, a GSA is a good safe place for them to just be themselves.”

 

“It’s a hot spot during the lunch period,” they added.

 

Bill comes up for second reading

NDP MLA Emily Tredger and party leader Kate White take a photo with students who were at the legislative assembly to witness the first reading of the safe spaces bill (photo from Facebook.com/EmilyTredgerNDP).

Not every student in the Yukon is as lucky as Morningstar is to have a GSA at their school – but that could soon change.

 

On April 6 in the Yukon’s Legislative Assembly a bill that if passed, would make amendments to the education act to ensure all schools in the territory have safe spaces for LGBTQ2S+ students was brought up for second reading.

 

The bill was first introduced on March 17 by NDP MLA for Whitehorse Centre Emily Tredger. She said it would be up to individual schools to decide how they provide safe spaces, though it would have to be through activities or student organizations.

 

Tredger told CHONfm the morning before the second reading that she’s hopeful the bill will make it though the house and become law.

 

“I have had just this outpouring of stories that I’ve been hearing from people. I’ve been hearing from adults who talked about how their GSA was a life line in school for them or adults that said ‘you know I would have been 10 years further in my journey if I had that support at the time,’” said Tredger.

 

“I think it’s really important that it passes and I’m optimistic that it will happen,” added Tredger.

 

Yukon Party calls for consultation

Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon speaks to media at a press conference (CHONfm file photo).

During the second reading debate, official opposition Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon motioned that the bill should go to the legislative assembly’s standing committee on statutory instruments for further questioning and consultation.

 

“We do know that there are a number of groups, stake holders, and those in the education community that do have thoughts on this bill. We’ve seen submissions by some of them all ready. There is a general sense in the education community that they would like to be consulted about this,” said Dixon.

 

Tredger responded to Dixon’s motion saying that if the bill went to the standing committee, the potential delay until next fall would impact students.

 

“We’re talking about students who are facing enormous mental health challenges, students with rates of attempted suicide that are far beyond those of their peers. We are risking so much if we don’t do this. Consultation is important but consultation can’t be used to avoid and delay acting when the consequences are this serious. Our youth can’t wait. They can’t wait until next sitting. They need this now,” said Tredger.

 

The motion was ultimately defeated with a total of nine Liberal and NDP MLA’s voting against it and all seven Yukon Party MLAs voting in favour.

 

The bill will now have to go through the committee of the whole to discuss the details and then it will go to third reading and a vote to see if it passes.

 

As for Morningstar they are hopeful that the bill will pass and all Yukon schools will have safe spaces.

 

“I think it’s a great thing,” said Morningstar.

 

Right now, they’re looking forward to Queer Prom which is being organized through the GSA with help from Queer Yukon.

 

Published April 12, 2022. 

Written by: Dylan MacNeil

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