2016 Alberta GSA Conference: Edmonton

  • August 09, 2017
  • In Blog

The Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (iSMSS) and the Calgary Sexual Health Centre (CSHC) organize the Alberta GSA Conferences each year. In 2016, the 5th Annual Alberta Gender and Sexual-Orientation Alliance (GSA) Conference was held on Saturday November 19th, 2016 at Eastglen High School on Treaty 6 land in Amiskwaciy Wậskahikan (Edmonton) Alberta. The conference aimed to provide students, teachers, school staff, and community groups with the opportunity to acquire knowledge and resources to start, strengthen, and sustain GSA clubs.

Below are a few details about the 2016 Alberta GSA Conference:

Rural Outreach:

70% of students and teachers who attended were from outside Edmonton or Calgary.
69 different schools from across Alberta participated.


Conference highlights:

30 Workshops for students & teachers
2 Workshops for general community members
2 Languages offered- English and Français. Les sessions en français organisé par Francophonie Jeunesse de l’Alberta!
45 Workshop facilitators
21 Resource Fair Organizations
15 Volunteers
5 Eastglen School Staff
13 Conference Planning Committee


Keynote Address:

Opening Prayer: Roxanne Tootoosis, Apprentice Knowledge Keeper
Roxanne Tootoosis is Plains Cree originating from Poundmaker Cree nation near Cut Knife, Saskatchewan. Her greatest strengths are her fluency in the Plains Cree language and being grounded in her culture. She is a proud Indigenous mother of two daughters, Niska and Quanah. Her youngest daughter, Quanah is transgendered. Quanah transitioned from male to female in 2006 when she was 17 years old. Quanah remains one of Roxanne’s phenomenal teachers educating her about LGBTQTS. Quanah inspired Roxanne to become an active ally. Roxanne has always been supportive of the 2SYEG group. In January, 2017, Roxanne and Lana Whiskeyjack will be initiating the first chapter of an Indigenous PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in Edmonton. She presently resides in Edmonton. She is presently a full-time student in the Master of Psychotherapy and Spirituality Program at St. Stephen’s College, U of A Campus.


Greetings from the Government of Alberta: MLA Estefania Cortes-Vargas
Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA, Estefania Cortes-Vargas, was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta on May 5, 2015. Prior to this, they worked as an educational assistant for Edmonton Public Schools for over four years and was enrolled in the social work program at MacEwan University.

When they were just six years old, Estefania and their family immigrated to Canada from Colombia and settled in Sherwood Park. They have been an active volunteer in the community. Currently Member Cortes-Vargas serves as deputy chair of the Special Standing Committee on Members’ Services. They were also a member of the Select Special Ethics and Accountability Committee. On March 8, 2016, Estefania was named government caucus whip, making them the youngest government whip in Alberta to date and most likely in Canada.


Keynote speaker: Dr. James Makokis
Dr. James Makokis is nehiyaw from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation and a two-spirit Family Physician practicing in Kehewin Cree Nation and also in South Common Medical Centre.

Dr. Makokis believes in the importance of nehiyaw maskihkiya (Cree medicines) and teachings and will be sharing some knowledge related to Cree understanding of two-spirit. He is the co-founder of the #2SYEG (Two Spirits of Edmonton) Group, which meets out of the Pride Centre, the fourth Wednesday evening of each month, from 6-8pm.


Resource Fair Organizations:

Pride Centre of Edmonton
iSMSS (Camp fYrefly, FINS, CHEW+REACH)
Francophonie jeunesse de l’Alberta (FJA)
Calgary Sexual Health Centre
The Landing
MacEwan inQUEERies
Calgary Police LGBTQ Liason
Two-Spirit Youth Support Circle
OUTloud (St Albert)
Alberta Distance Learning Centre & Affirm Ministry of McDougall United Church
Rainbow Connection (Southminster-Steinhauer United Church)
Edmonton Pride Festival



Big thank you to the folks and organizations on the planning committee:

  • iSMSS
  • Linh Lu (Pride Centre of Edmonton)
  • Courtney Cliff (altView Foundation)
  • Thomas Trombetta (altView Foundation)
  • Alex Dumas (Francophonie Jeunesse de l’Alberta)
  • Mia Soetaert (Conference Youth Committee, OUTloud)
  • Mitch Wilson (Conference Youth Committee)
  • Ezra Hockett (Conference Youth Committee)
  • Leann Thompson (Eastglen High School)
  • Christina Hamer (Eastglen High School)
  • Students of the Eastglen Pride Club
  • Corey Wyness (CHEW Project)

Thank you to the following GSA Conference sponsors:
Office of the Child and Youth Advocate
Alberta Teachers’ Association
University of Alberta

Calgary Board of Education
Calgary Sexual Health Centre
Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services
Stigma and Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Centre
Alberta Education
ATB Financial
Society for Safe and Caring Schools
Edmonton Police Service
Calgary Police Service
Canadian Institute of Health Research
Alberta Human Rights Commission


For more photos check out our #31daysofGSA campaign on our Alberta GSA Network Instagram!

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