Rainbow's 2024 GSA Conference Amplifies Joy for 250 students


By Dene Guillas, Craig Gibb, Ashley Smith

On May 17th, Rainbow Resource Centre hosted our biennial Manitoba GSA conference at Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR).

GSAs are Gender and Sexuality Alliances (formerly Gay/Straight Alliance), which are student groups for 2SLGBTQ+ and allied youth to gather in a safer space. Some GSAs are more social in nature and some are more project-oriented, but either way, they are places where youth can be themselves without fear of stigma or discrimination.

“GSA’s allow schools to show their community what they stand for. That they value diversity, equity and inclusion for ALL their students, staff and families,” says Dene Guillas, Rainbow’s School Equity & Inclusion Coordinator. “These alliances reinforce that the schools #1 responsibility is to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for ALL. GSA’s provide students an opportunity for a sense of belonging, safety and a community. A place where they can just be themselves and figure out who they want to be. Knowing their school values their identities and respects them, allows students to bring their full selves to the school, which in turn allows them to discover how to thrive in education.”

Dene welcomed to CMHR 250 students and 50 teachers from 50 schools across Manitoba gathered to celebrate our shared community, learn about human rights, and amplify joy. The halls of the museum were filled with the buzz of students connecting with each other, embracing their identities, and finding new community; it was truly an affirming day.

In addition to engaging workshops, the day also included smudging with Two-Spirited People of Manitoba; opening remarks from MLA Uzoma Asagwara, Minister of Health, Seniors, and Long-Term Care; blessings from Elder Albert McLeod; a performance from Rainbow Harmony Project’s Youth Choir; and a drag show with Feather Talia, Miss Gender, and Izabell Silver.

A huge thank you goes out to CMHR for hosting us and an extra-huge thank you goes out to the forty volunteers who expertly kept everything running smoothly. And the extra-extra-huge thank you goes out to the fifty schools that joined us!

“GSA's benefit everyone in the school community, not only those who identify as 2SLGBTQ+. It's essential to prioritize curiosity and compassion over mere comprehension in our interactions with one another and with ourselves. We need to stop imposing our expectations on others, as this often leads to people concealing aspects of who they are,” Dene says. “We all deserve to exist in spaces that honor, affirm, and appreciate our uniqueness, because we all have blessings that are meant to be gifts to this world.”


Support Rainbow's work to ensure Manitoba's schools are safe spaces for 2SLGBTQ+ youth, teachers, and families.