Sex Education in Schools
It is always a surprise to find Prince Edward Island so widely regarded as an oasis of tranquility, somehow spared the troubles of the cruel world.
In reality, all the trends found elsewhere have their local proponents, and if they are sufficiently aggressive or sufficiently subtle, they can have an influence far beyond their numbers.
There is, for example, a very aggressive branch of the Canadian Abortion Rights League (CARAL), and a well-financed and influential feminist movement with its usual interlocking circles and networks. When denied funding a few years ago, Planned Parenthood folded, but its material and its advocates still circulate, its influence is still felt, and its clichés are repeated as fact.
In this setting the pro-life and pro-family struggles are being carried on by small groups of stalwarts.
Like most Maritimers, Islanders prefer to avoid public confrontation, tend to “live and let live,” and are more trusting than cynical or skeptical. This makes it difficult to alert them to an awareness of danger, or to stir them to the kind of concentrated, sustained vigilance and mass action needed to combat some of today’s trends.
A straightforward “They’re going to do abortions at our hospital” will rally the forces in great strength, whereas the less obvious dangers involved in the erosion of parents’ rights sets off few alarm bells.
That is the problem encountered by one small group of parents in the Charlottetown area. Calling themselves “Parents Concerned About School-Based Family Life Education,” they are struggling to prevent the wholesale adoption (or imposition) of a comprehensive sex ed program, at present a pilot project in a quarter of the province’s schools. Unaware of the implications, many other parents are quite bewildered by their opposition to “such a well-meaning program.”
In November, the parents’ group made a formal protest to the school board in their area, only to be told to take their concerns to the Department of Education. They were presently preparing to do just that, as the Department is requesting input in determining the philosophy that should govern our educational system.
This group of parents is contacting “Parents Roundtable,” and American parents’ rights group that attended the recent Human Life International conference in Toronto. They are interested in contacting and learning from any Canadian group with similar concerns. (Anyone able to help could perhaps forward their address to The Interim).
On the Legislative Scene
In the fall, a legislative Review Committee announced a series of hearings regarding amendments to the province’s Human Rights Act.
Aware that groups across the country had seized such opportunities to get special privileges for homosexuals and lesbians entrenched in legislation, REAL Women/PEI appeared before the Committee to urge that PEI resist such a trend.
“Experience has shown that if the word ‘sex’ in Human Rights Legislation is not specifically defined as referring to gender, then it is almost certain today to be interpreted as meaning sexual orientation and lifestyle, which open the door to many additional demands by the very militant gay rights groups,” said the brief.
The presentation highlighted the experiences of other areas following such legislated protection, including the harmful impact on family life. The group submitted also a copy of the American Gay Rights agenda, adopted by homosexual activists here. Many of its goals have already been accomplished in Canada.
One MLA (who may have been atypical by his lack of information) expressed astonishment that anyone would even consider such protection a matter of human rights.
That the Committee members had carefully studied the material presented by REAL Women became obvious through their questions when exactly a week later a delegation from the newly formed Lesbian Collective appeared before them with a phalanx of supporters.
Their adherence to the Gay Rights agenda was plain. They presented themselves as unhappy targets of unreasoning hatred. They claimed to suffer loss of jobs and discrimination in housing, violence, and daily risks to safety and security, all because they wanted to love and be loved. After making the further unsubstantiated assertion that at least 13,000 Islanders are gay, they carefully planted the fear that anyone who opposed their requests might be unaware that their nearest and dearest (even wives and mothers) could be secret gays longing to discard their heterosexual disguises.
They said, “There are pictures and announcements in the papers, showers and other celebrations when heterosexuals get engaged or married. But gays are not permitted the same kind of public celebrations. We want the same right as the rest of society to live in an open and dignified manner with the person we love.”
In support of them, Opposition Member Andrew Walker (PC) noted that Vancouverite Svend Robinson was easily re-elected despite his declaration of homosexuality. “I think that’s a credit to the people of B.C.,” he said.
Brief’s supporting the Lesbian Collective were later presented by several groups, including the publicly funded Advisory Council on the Status of Women.
REAL Women attempted to convince a number of other groups that it was essential to appear before the Committee – groups that one would expect to have a vested interest in defending traditional values (Catholic Women’s League, Catholic Family Services, Knights of Columbus). Some saw no urgency, some no danger in protecting sexual orientation. Others were too busy with other matters. The (Catholic Diocesan Family Life Ministry was fully occupied in preparing a major presentation on philosophy for the Department of Education.
And so only one brief opposed such legislation, while three or more supported it. One group that did recognize a special opportunity in the hearings, and quickly responded, addressed another urgent topic. PEI Right to Life representatives Harold Dolan and Tim Trainor presented a very fine brief in which they focused on the portion of the Preamble to the Act that states, “The recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace.
The Preamble acknowledges that the State does not confer human rights, but only recognizes that they inhere in us because of our humanity, they said. They pointed out that since unrestricted individualism “leads to social unrest, neglect of the common good, anarchy, and the tyranny of the most powerful,” it is unwise to continue to allow proponents of individualism to define the Human Rights debate in a way that disregards the common good and our responsibilities to society. They urged the lawmakers to ensure that the right to life itself be given specific protection in the Act as the most basic of our human rights.
“Our presentation took an historical and philosophical approach that helped correct the portrayal of pro-lifers as over-emotional and unable to understand the issues. We were pleased that it was well received,” said Mr. Trainor.
In this case also, there were no supporting briefs from the other groups that one would have expected to have a vested interest in the outcome.
One MLA said later, “We legislators may believe that we know what the people truly want, and what their values are. We may be totally convinced that they are opposed to certain proposals. But what are we to do when the hearings are over and we count up the presentations for and against, and we find that several groups support a proposal that seems contrary to local values, but no one has opposed it?”
The Committee’s recommendations for amendments will be brought before the Legislative Assembly when the House opens in mid-February.