Alberta Take Action to Defend Parental Authority: Bill 202 & Bill 10
Update (Dec 4, 2014): The Prentice government has just announced that it is shelving Bill 10 in light of the opposition the bill is receiving. Unfortunately most of the opposition seems to be from people who are pushing for even more radical changes. Let’s be proactive and meet with our MLAs, write them, and call them, to discuss a better alternative.
Alberta’s government is pushing hard to promote alternative sexual lifestyles while also decreasing the ability of parents to educate their children according to their beliefs. First, Bill 202 was introduced into the Alberta Legislature on November 20, 2014 by MLA Laurie Blakeman, as a private member’s bill. The legislation has similarities to Manitoba’s Bill 18 and Ontario’s Bill 13 in making gay-straight alliances mandatory in any school where it is requested by a student. Like Manitoba, this would be the case for all schools, including independent and Christian. But the bill goes further (see below).
Soon after, the government responded by drafting its own legislation, Bill 10, which is also very troubling. Although they try strike a balance between LGBT rights and parental authority, it is clear that parental authority is being undermined. First, the bill will remove the requirement for parents to be informed when their children are being taught explicitly about sexual orientation. In addition, it would also add “sexual orientation” to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Alberta Bill of Rights. In other words, the government has determined that parents shouldn’t be informed when their children are being taught about “sexual orientation.”
Second, Section 11.1 of the Alberta Human Rights Act (AHRA), which requires that parents be able to remove their children from instruction about sexuality and religion will be removed and put into the School Act and Education Act. A statement about parental rights will also be added to the Bill of Rights. It is hard to know why Section 11.1 is being removed from the AHRA. The AHRA is a quasi-constitutional document, so pulling this section suggests that the protection drops down a tier and would be subject to the other “rights” in the AHRA.
Third, it explicitly grants students from all schools, including private, who would want a gay-straight alliance, the authority to appeal to the school board if they are met with resistance. The school board’s decision can be challenged by judicial review “for jurisdictional error or unreasonableness.” Although we don’t know the direct impact on Bill 202, it appears that Bill 202 will become moot.
We encourage our readers to read this article and then use our EasyMail sample letters to write their MLA, explaining that neither Bill 202 or Bill 10 should not be supported. Please encourage others to do likewise.
Take Action: Easymail letter 1 – Parents have authority over children
Take Action: Easymail letter 2 – Freedom of Religion and Association
Background Facts & Sample Letters
Bill 10 would:
- Amend the Alberta Bill of Rights so that sexual orientation is added to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination and adds the right of parents to make informed decisions about the education of their child.
- Amend the Alberta Human Rights Act to remove section 11.1, which deals with the rights of parents to withdraw their children from instruction about sexuality and sexual orientation.
- Amend the School Act to add a section that parallels the removed section of the Alberta Human Rights Act, but without sexual orientation as a matter on which parents can withdraw children from instruction.
- Add a section to the School Act outlining that when requirements for notice to parents and/or withdrawal of children are not met, that can be appealed to the Board, using existing ways to appeal the decision. The Board’s decision on appeal may be challenged in the Courts through judicial review. This will apply to School Boards and Charter Schools, as of Royal Assent. It will not apply to Private Schools until March 1, 2015.
- Effective March 1, 2015, the School Act is amended so that the new section about notice to parents, withdrawal of students, and appeals to Board will apply to Private Schools. It will also add a section that provides a right of appeal to the school board if a student’s request for support in (amongst other things) establishing an anti-discrimination organization, such as a GSA or a diversity club, is denied. And it adds new provisions, and amends existing provisions, relating to the creation of a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment and the prevention of bullying.
- Effective September 2015, the Bill adds provisions to the yet unproclaimed Education Act to parallel changes to the School Act. These will come into force when the Education Act is proclaimed in September 2015.
Bill 202 would:
1. Repeal Section 11.1 of the Alberta Human Rights Act which requires schools to give notice to parents when a course or program includes subject-matter that deals explicitly with religion, sexuality, or sexual orientation.
2. Amend Alberta’s Education Act so that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Human Rights Act become the new basis for all courses or programs of study, replacing the “common values and beliefs of Albertans.”
3. Amend the Education Act to require the accommodation of students who want to start or lead activities or organizations which promote toleration for certain student behaviours, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and which use the name “gay-straight alliance” or something similar. It emphasizes that neither a board nor a principal may refuse to allow a student to use the name gay-straight alliance or something similar.
4. Amend the Education Act to clarify that parents may request that their child be excluded from sexual health instruction (which is far narrower than instruction about sexuality or sexual orientation), in addition to religious or patriotic instruction or education.
Bill 202 is fundamentally flawed:
1. Bill 202 drives a wedge between parents and their children by removing the requirement that schools have to notify parents when their children will be taught about sexuality or sexual orientation. The implied conclusion is that the State has the ultimate authority over the education of children and parents should not interfere. Allowing parents to remove their children from “sexual health instruction” is not the same as the broader matters covered by “sexuality or sexual orientation” as currently recognized.
2. Bill 202 is a direct assault on freedom of religion and freedom of association. It forbids independent religious schools (for example) from upholding their religious beliefs about sexuality. To be forced to allow a club, activity, or organization which promotes a cause which undermines the religious principles of the school is a violation of these fundamental freedoms. When individual Albertans choose to associate for a common purpose, such as educating their children in a way that is in accordance with their religious beliefs, they are protected by the freedom of association, which is recognized as a fundamental freedom in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
3. Bill 202 is hypocritical. On the one hand it demands that the basis for all education should be the Alberta Human Rights Act. In the same legislation it proposes to repeal a section of the Alberta Human Rights Act that affirm parental rights. This is a clear example of how building on the Alberta Human Rights Act is like building on sand. It is crafted and shaped on the whims and fashions of legislators. Again, the message is that the standard should not be the beliefs of Albertan parents, but rather the ever-changing values of the legislators.
4. Bill 202 assumes that the State, not parents, have the primary responsibility in the education of children. Parental rights are removed and seized by the State. The new standard for the Alberta Education Act becomes government legislation (the Alberta Human Rights Act). In other words, government legislation is based on other government legislation – becoming a vicious circle.
Sample Letter #1: Parents have authority over children
Thank you for the time and service you give to our beautiful province. I recognize that your job is not easy. Thank you very much for serving in public office.
I’m writing to express my concern with Bill 202, which is called the “safe and inclusive school act” as well as Bill 10, which appears to be the government’s response to Bill 202. Among many other problems, Bill 202 would remove a clause from the Alberta Human Rights Act (AHRA) which requires that schools notify parents when their children are being taught explicitly about sexuality or sexual orientation. In its place, a small change is made to the Education Act which would only inform parents if their children are being taught about “sexual health.” Bill 10 is not much better. It also would pull that clause from the AHRA and put a modified version in the Education Act and School Act, which are subservient to the quasi-constitutional AHRA. Parents would no longer be informed of when their children are being taught about sexual orientation.
This is another example of where the State is assuming authority over the education of children and driving a wedge between parents and their children. Who owns our children? In North Korea, the answer is the State. In Canada, I sure hope that we still recognize that parents are the primary authorities over their children, also as it relates to their education. Children are not pawns in a battle over the future. God has given children to parents and also entrusts parents with the responsibility of raising them.
It is disturbing that some would want to intentionally hide what is being taught to children. They know that the issues will be controversial and they don’t want to have to answer for that. The assumption is that the State knows best. If we are honest, I think we would all agree that the State today is an impersonal, ideological, and ever-changing institution which cares about advancing its power and influence.
Please do what you can to oppose Bill 202 and Bill 10.
Please also do what you can to promote a society where the State is limited to doing the work it has been entrusted with (promoting peace, freedom, and order) and where families can do the work they have been entrusted with.
Sample Letter 2: Freedom of Religion and Association
Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms includes a section called “Fundamental Freedoms.” Among these are freedom of religion, expression, and association.
I’m concerned that Bill 202, introduced by MLA Blakeman, as well as Bill 10 which is the government’s response to Bill 202, is a direct violation of freedom of religion and association and another example of the State using its authority to promote its own worldview.
Bill 202 requires that all schools must allow gay-straight alliances if requested by a student. Bill 10 gives the right to appeal a teacher’s decision about a GSA to the school board, which is also subject to a court challenge. When parents assemble to pursue a common cause, such as the education of their children, the constitution gives them the freedom to do so in a way that is true to their beliefs. The civil government realizes full-well that many schools are a gathering of Christian parents who seek to educate their children in a way that is consistent with their faith. This includes principles about sexuality and family life.
Forcing Christian schools (among others) to allow organizations, activities, and clubs which violate its own principles is a direct violation of their freedom of religion and association. It is also another sad example of the State using its heavy hand to impose its own ideology.
Let’s not kid ourselves, there is no such thing as a value-neutral education. Forcing schools to allow secular-humanist teachings of sexuality is the imposition of its own religion. This is not about “safe schools” but about the state imposing its morality on all citizens.
The fact that Bill 202 and Bill 10 also remove the ability of parents to be notified when their children are being taught about sexual orientation shows that the State thinks it knows best. This is disturbing.
Please do everything you can to oppose Bill 202 and Bill 10. Amendments are not the answer. Please also work to promote a society where parents are encouraged to assume their responsibility in the education of their children.
Thank you for your service for our province. I look forward to your response.