Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bravo, University of Alberta (Updated)

Imagine my surprise when I read the following in a full-page ad from the University of Alberta, in the Saturday, March 15, 2013 edition of The Globe and Mail:

Accepting Gay Youth with Straight Facts

Remember that old nursery rhyme your parents used to tell you:  "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."  Sadly, it's wrong.  "That's so gay," "faggot," "dyke" and "No homo" are some of the most common derogatory expressions used in schools today, but the least addressed by teachers.

For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, words have the power to shape their identities and possibilities for the future.  Put simply: words can hurt or heal.  But sometimes our silence speaks much louder than our words.  It's time we stop the silence surrounding the daily expression of casual homophobia in our schools, families and communities.

Our institute at the University of Alberta is helping to break the long-held silence that surrounds sexual orientation and gender identity in our schools and communities. Through innovative projects such as, Camp fYrefly and the Family Resilience Project, we are using the power of research to both educate people and inspire action for positive social change.  

It's what's next in helping raise awareness and understanding of the struggles of sexual and gender minority youth among us, and empowering them to embrace their identities at school and home and in their communities.  It's work that has the ability to not only change lives, but also save them.

Kristopher Wells
Associate Director
Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services
University of Alberta
116 Street and 85 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta

The first question I have to ask is, what's going on at the University of Alberta?  In my mind, at least, Alberta has one of the most redneck reputations of all the provinces in Canada.  Yet its largest university has an Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services.  (According to the website, the ISMSS opened in January 2008, replacing and subsuming a couple of other organizations.)  Does every large university in the country have something similar to it, or is UALBERTA on the cutting edge?

The second question is, where is a similar declaration from the largest university in the province where I live–the University of British Columbia?  Why did UALBERTA take the lead?  Where does UBC stand on this issue?  Why wasn't UBC the trendsetter?

Great job, UALBERTA and, specifically, the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services.  You should be very proud of your stand on this important matter and for setting the example for all post-secondary institutions in Canada.

This is me standing and applauding you.


Postscript on Wednesday, March 20, 2013:

The very same one-page advertisement I referred to above also appeared in today's edition of The Vancouver Sun.


This is the kind of homophobia the ISMSS is combatting.  

Here's a short video featuring Kristopher Wells, Associate Director for the ISMSS, talking about what the university program seeks to do.


  1. I recently travelled east and passed through Vancouver Airport. I couldn't help but notice, and be impressed by, a UofA recruiting poster of gigantic proportions that was promoting this. UBC - they're in your turf!!

  2. JustAMike, I'm not sure what you're getting at with the line "UBC - they're in your turf," but I know for a fact UBC has some catching up to do to UALBERTA.
    And, yes, I would have been impressed by the poster at YVR too. Seems Alberta may not be the most desirable place to live in Canada, but they are doing a good job of attracting folks from all over the place. I have no doubt we'll lose some good people, just because of Alberta's great attitude.
    (I hasten to add here that it's UALBERTA that's progressive, not necessarily the great citizens of that province. I'm sure many of them are not as forward-thinking as their largest institution for higher learning.)
    Thanks so much for your interest in my blog, and for taking the time to leave a comment. I really appreciate it.