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Notley demands Smith remove from caucus MLA who spoke at LGBTQ2S+ policy protest

Premier Danielle Smith is keeping MLA Jason Stephan in her UCP caucus despite an Alberta NDP demand to remove him for speaking at a '1MillionMarch4Children' protest.

Stephan, the second term representative for Red Deer-South, said the event was about parental rights and denied widespread criticism that the protests were hateful as he shared a stage with a local school trustee who recently likened the LGBTQ2S+ community to Nazi Germany.

"[Stephan] shouldn't be anywhere near the caucus. Long since should have been kicked out, should have been the first thing the premier said this morning," Notley told reporters on Thursday.

Notley became emotional as she delivered a message to queer and trans youth that they are "loved" and "respected."

She then recalled seeing a video from a Wednesday protest in Calgary where a young boy called gay people "psychopaths" and "disgusting," to mixed crowd reaction.

"It broke my heart. Children are not born with hate in their heart but somebody convinced a four- or five-year-old to hold a mic and spew hate," Notley said.

"And the premier is failing to condemn this. And that, to me, is one of the most profound failures in leadership that I've ever seen."

In the Alberta capital, a protest organizer said the group wants "healthy boundaries" in schools and doesn't believe sexuality and gender identity are appropriate topics for children.

A leader of the counter-protest argued inclusive policies in schools are helping queer and trans kids feel safe and accepted.

Smith was asked what she thought of the nationwide marches, which attracted hundreds of protesters and counter-protesters in Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary.

"Well look, I mean, I am sympathetic to parents who want to preserve the innocence of their kids for as long as they can," the premier said, adding there are mechanisms in Alberta's system to allow parental control on issues like sexuality and religion.

"That being said, we also know sometimes these protests can get a little heated and it's unfortunate if people take their opposition too far and cross the line and there are mechanisms in law to make sure that that gets addressed."

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan speaks at a "1MillionMarch4Children" protest in Red Deer on September, 20, 2023. (Credit: rdnewsNOW)

Her office later defended Stephan, in an email to CTV News Edmonton.

"As the premier said earlier today, she does not condone hate speech or violence. MLA Jason Stephan spoke on behalf of parents and constituents, exercising his freedom of speech peacefully," press secretary Sam Blackett wrote.

A spokesperson for the UCP said on Wednesday that "MLAs may speak to these issues on behalf of their constituents" and that the caucus supports "peaceful protest and open, grassroots debate."

Many have denounced the '1MillionMarch4Children' events, including Notley and several of her MLAs, Edmonton Mayor Amajeet Sohi, the president of the Alberta Teachers Association and the leader of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

Sohi used the words "discrimination, hatred, or bigotry" in his condemnation of the protests and said they will "actually cause tremendous harm to our 2SLGBTQIA+ youth, their families, and allies."

Smith would only say Wednesday that she was "aware" of the protests while encouraging people to engage "peacefully."

"Smith went as far as she could, I think, because of internal politics and didn't show a whole lot of courage," said Mount Royal Political Scientist Duane Bratt who believes Smith is walking a "tightrope" in an effort to not upset her social conservative base.

Notley, meanwhile, vowed to keep fighting for the human rights of queer and trans youth before addressing the premier and Stephan.

"That hate must be condemned and the fact that the premier is normalizing it by allowing one of her caucus members to participate in this is appalling, just appalling," she said. Top Stories

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