SASKATOON – It’s the first of its kind in Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan Gay Straight Alliance Summit united students and teachers in Saskatoon this weekend to discuss how to form and support their own Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs.
The event, hosted by OUTSaskatoon and Camp fYrefly, brought together approximately 170 students and a number of educators to create a network of support.
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Saturday’s keynote speaker Ryan Jimmy told the students about the fear he felt in high school when he discovered he was gay and didn’t know if he would be accepted in his community of Onion Lake.
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He said he knows that if he had a GSA, or an event like the summit, it would have saved him from the depression he experienced.
“I think for me, that’s what it felt like – there was no one I could turn to. Having representation, having teachers you can connect with is very important,” Jimmy said.
“Being here, and the youth that are here, I hope they can take something from this.”
Students at the event said they hope that on top of helping to develop stronger GSAs in schools across the province, it sends a message about the need for them in every school.
Grade 11 student Ky Lapoint said he knows “a lot of people question the necessity of GSAs but if there is a need for a GSA summit, it kind of gives validity to the fact we do need GSAs in schools.”
In Saskatchewan, provincial policy outlines that if students go to administrators and request a GSA or a student alliance for gender under sexual diversity, the school must respond positively to that request. Many in the LGBTQ community believe this doesn’t go far enough.
“We need to push our government to develop legislation so that every school has a GSA,” Jimmy said. He said he believes they would help lower the suicide rates we are currently seeing in First Nations and northern communities, because gay or “two-spirited” aboriginal youth are one of the groups with highest risk of taking their own life.
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In May of last year, the Opposition NDP tried to pass a private member’s bill that would legislate the right to GSAs, but it was denied.