On Tuesday, October 15th at the Albert Education Centre in downtown Ottawa, nearly a dozen different high schools attended the Dare to Stand Out National Capital Region (Ottawa) Gay-Straight Alliance/Queer-Straight Alliance Training Conference!
Teachers and students enjoyed healthy breakfast snacks of applie slices and granola bars while starting the conference with humming icebreakers, a history of the term “Gay Straight Alliance”, and trying out anti-oppressive facilitation skills for running meetings. Cameron Aitken, Jer’s Vision educator and founder of the first Sault Ste Marie GSA at his high school, spoke about his coming out story and running his alliance at his school while singing excerpts of tunes from the musical Rent! We then engaged in a discussion about the different kinds of clubs and alliances one can have, covering important topics about confidentiality and inclusive names (offering alternatives that are in use, such as Rainbow Club, Pride Club, and Rainbow Alliance).
After some group activities to teach event management, there was lunch and mingling, with even more snacks. The afternoon saw a talk by Member of Parliament for the Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Philip Toone. He also spoke about his coming out story as a person and politician, and emphasized the importance of community members like politicians working with local organizations and high school groups to push forward change. He spoke about the transgender rights bill, Bill C-279 (an Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code). The group then discussed different ways and important days where clubs and alliances can raise awareness in their school, and how they can foster change in the system.
Some comments from students:
“The perspective of this all has given me a new way to bring my club a new future. I loved this whole event and hope to attend many more of these.”
“I learned about things to do in GSA, what LGBT people are facing in society, about GSA history, LGBT people history, what to do to make a change.”
“I love it, I love the idea of it and I really think it will help GSA/Pride/Rainbow youth clubs, etc. grow!”