In March 2017 I exposed how the Alberta GSA Network, a government-funded and recommended resource intended to support K-12 students, led to sexually graphic material.
With only 1-2 clicks from the resource, children could easily access videos of naked adults participating in sexual acts, ads for sex toys, highly descriptive oral sex techniques and advice to “pay for porn” and “visit a group masturbation site at your local sex club.”
Most disturbing was that these links, organized by the University of Alberta’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (iSMSS), were guised as “support” for kindergarten to Grade 12 students.
I have re-purposed this page (the original content is still available as a blog article) in order to provide a timeline overview of this specific topic. Information will be added as new developments arise.
Late February 2017 – Found & documented the sexually graphic material
After my initial discovery of the sexually graphic material I spent the next couple of weeks compiling a complete listing of these community supports, along with screenshots to document the content I found.
March 13 & 14, 2017 – Published blog article and video about sexually graphic material, resulting in some of it being removed
The blog article was viewed tens of thousands of times and shared several thousand times on Facebook in just the first 36 hours. I also sent the information to several political leaders asking them to take action against this egregious material.
I sent the information to local, provincial and national media, alerting them to what I found and letting them know I was prepared to do interviews. Parents for Choice in Education also sent information to the media announcing that their Executive Director, Donna Trimble, was filing a complaint with the police for further investigation.
Alarmingly, very few mainstream media chose to cover the story, even though a severe breach of public trust had occurred in the care of children within our school system.
Here are links to the media who did provide some coverage:
The morning after publishing my blog article, the Ministry of Education communicated with iSMSS about the information I exposed. As a result, 18 of the 66 community support links (over 25% of the links) were removed from the website by noon.
That afternoon, MLA Leela Aheer, the Education Critic for the Wildrose, made a Member’s Statement in the Legislative Assembly, prior to Oral Question Period, to bring further awareness to this material (read Hansard, page 245)
March 16, 2017 – started online petition
I started an online petition, specifically urging the Education Minister David Eggen to provide assurances to Alberta parents and taxpayers that iSMSS, along with any associated staff and Directors, would no longer be involved in any capacity with the K-12 curriculum re-write or the provision of resources, research or teacher training that is being funded by the Alberta government.
March 23, 2017 – Found more sexually graphic material
A member of the public alerted me that one of the remaining links on the Community Supports section, called CHEW (Comprehensive Health Education Workers), was still leading to sexually graphic content which I was not previously aware of.
I wrote about this material several weeks later, publishing a blog article called “The ABCs you didn’t know your kids could learn at school” and “How does promoting porn to kids save lives?”
(It should be noted that the Director of CHEW, Dr. Andre Grace, is also the co-director of iSMSS and that this close, intertwined relationship may explain why CHEW was not initially removed by iSMSS in the first cull of the site.)
April 3, 2017 – Filmed follow-up video as MLA Aheer questioned Education Minister in Legislative Assembly
I filmed a follow-up video explaining why simply removing the 18 links from the site did not solve the problem, as well as announcing a new province-wide letter writing campaign. This video was released publicly a few days later, on April 7.
Also on April 3, MLA Leela Aheer, Education Critic for the Wildrose specifically asked the Minister of Education about the sexually graphic material during Question Period, which I wrote about later that week.
April 4, 2017 – Entire Community Supports section was removed from GSA Network website
The entire community supports section was completely removed from the GSA Network, likely in response to MLA Aheer’s public questioning of the Education Minister in the Legislative Assembly the day before.
April 7, 2017 – Published follow-up video and launched letter-writing campaign
The video I filmed on April 3rd was finished production and I publicly released it on my blog, officially launching a province-wide letter campaign with a deadline of May 12th to send in letters.
May 5, 2017 – Sent requests to political representatives for 1 hour meetings
I sent emails (published on my blog) to the Education Minister David Eggen, as well as the leaders and Education Critics of the Wildrose and PC parties, requesting 1 hour meetings in order to personally deliver the letters I had collected and to hear from them directly about what actions they would take on this important issue.
Jason Kenney, then leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, responded that he would meet with me for 1 hour on May 19th in Calgary.
I heard nothing from Wildrose leader Brian Jean, but did hear back from the office of MLA Leela Aheer, then Wildrose Education Critic. After several back and forth exchanges with MLA Aheer’s office, a 30 minute meeting with MLA Leela Aheer was scheduled for May 25th.
Initially, I received a reply that the Education Minister David Eggen would meet with me the last week of May. However, I later learned that the meeting with the Education Minister would only proceed if I attended alone. When I stated my expectation that someone else attend the meeting with me as a note-taker then the meeting was cancelled. After some negotiation, I was permitted to meet only with the Education Minister’s Chief of Staff on June 6th, with a friend alongside me who took notes of the meeting.
May/June 2017 – Met with political representatives re: sexually graphic material
I attended the following meetings:
May 19th – 1 hour with Jason Kenney, then leader of the Progressive Conservative party
May 25th – 30 minutes with MLA Leela Aheer, then Education Critic for the Wildrose party
June 6th – 30 minutes with Education Minister’s Chief of Staff
At each meeting I explained a summary of what had happened with the sexually graphic material, summarized concerns and provided the same 1 page handout with specific questions.
I provided binders with copies of the 700+ letters of concern to both Jason Kenney and Leela Aheer.
I chose not to bring the letters to the meeting with the Chief of Staff because I promised those who wrote letters that I would only deliver them if I could do so directly to the Education Minister (who was not in attendance).
Summary of each meeting:
Jason Kenney – Mr. Kenney was attentive and responsive to our concerns. As he flipped through the binders he was especially impressed with the effort and time that people from across the province put into writing and mailing personal letters. He received the binders and agreed to share them with the PC Education Critic, Dave Rodney.
Leela Aheer – MLA Aheer thanked me for the work I had done and promised to look into the questions I raised. She said she would read through the letters and that it would be possible to table them in the Legislative Assembly before the end of the spring session.
Education Minister’s Chief of Staff – agreed the material I found on the GSA Network website was inappropriate and that is why he personally made a call to iSMSS on the morning after my blog article was published and asked that links be removed.
He said that since the community supports section was removed that the website was a valuable resource for students and that is why it continues to be recommended by the Alberta Education.
Regarding concerns about the solicitation of student’s personal identifying information on the GSA Network site, he said he’d look into it and get back to me (however follow-up communication was never received, despite a couple of reminder emails I sent to him).
During our meeting he also said that it is up to school districts, principals and teachers (not the provincial government) who they choose to bring into their districts and classrooms as guest speakers, whether for teacher professional development or student learning/activities and that would be an issue that I would have to take up with them instead of the provincial government.
June 5, 2017 – MLA Leela Aheer promised to table the 700+ letters in the Legislative Assembly, but then didn’t follow through and never offered a public explanation
On June 5th MLA Leela Aheer’s introduced me as a guest in the Legislative Assembly and publicly thanked me for the work I did to bring awareness to the sexually graphic material.
While I was thankful for her words of acknowledgement in the legislature, I was extremely disappointed that a commitment was made to table the 700+ letters I collected from across the province but then the commitment was withdrawn with little notice and no explanation.
When queries to MLA Leela Aheer for a public explanation went unanswered, I wrote an open letter on my blog to the leader of the Wildrose, Brian Jean, asking for an explanation why the letters were not tabled and why Albertans were misrepresented on official legislature documents.
No response was ever provided to me from Brian Jean or Leela Aheer, though several other people contacted MLA Aheer’s office and were told that she would pursue this matter in the fall sitting of the Legislature (which did not happen).
July 2017 to January 2018
As we headed into summer 2017, Albertans faced tremendous uncertainty in the political landscape of Alberta.
There was a question of whether the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties would pursue unity (they did), followed by a leadership race for the new United Conservative Party (won by Jason Kenney in October) and a shuffle of opposition MLA portfolios. There were also municipal elections in October 2017, leading to new slates of trustees governing school boards across the province.
In the midst of all of this political change, the sexually graphic material took a back seat.
Now, as we enter a new year, the dust has settled.
New key decision-makers have emerged since the time I initially began pursuing this issue. We have a newly elected leader of the Official Opposition, Jason Kenney, and the re-emergence of a former Education Critic, MLA Mark Smith. Across the province we also have freshly elected boards of school trustees who are responsible to lead our schools for the next four years.
Over the past few months my role has also shifted.
I continue to write as an independent blogger, but I have also been hired part-time for the organization Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) to contribute to their efforts doing research, writing and presentations.
PCE has greater resources, a more robust website and broader reach than my blog alone and I am thankful and honored to contribute my efforts to a common cause.
As part of PCE’s new 2018 Action Plan, I will be contributing a section specifically related to what people can do to pursue accountability for those who have directed children to sexually graphic material. Stay tuned!