The new Progressive Conservative government of Jim Prentice in Alberta proposed Bill 10, a law that would give students the right to create gay-straight alliance clubs in their schools and downgrade the right of parents to withdraw their children from classes dealing with homosexuality. But on Dec. 4, Prentice announced he was shelving the Bill after facing opposition within his own caucus for not going far enough to protect the rights of homosexual students. One of his Tory critics, a recent rival of Prentice’s for the Tory leadership, Thomas Lukaszuk, faulted Bill 10 as a half measure. “We didn’t give women half the vote,” he argued. LifeSiteNews wondered why the opposition was coming from “small-l liberals” instead of “Christians or social conservatives who believe the bill goes too far.
Bill 10 proposed to amend the Alberta Bill of Rights to include sexual orientation as a prohibited grounds for discrimination while adding the right of parents to make decisions about the education of their child. Yet, it would remove Section 11.1 of the Alberta Human Rights Act that gives parents the right to remove their children from classes on sexuality and sexual orientation. In the hierarchy of laws in Alberta, the bill of rights comes below the human rights act.
Prentice’s proposal would also amend the School Act to make similar changes. Bill 10 would allow decisions about withdrawing students from sensitive classes to be appealed to judicial review and would apply to all school boards and charter schools in Alberta immediately and to all private schools by March 1, 2015.
Bill 10 establishes a right for students to create gay-straight alliances and other diversity clubs, as part of the Ministry of Education’s anti-bullying efforts.
Prentice’s decision did not affect the private member’s bill, 202, from Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman (Edmonton-Centre), which would repeal section 11.1 requiring that parents be notified when the school will provide instruction on religion, sexuality, and sexual orientation. It would also prevent principals or school boards from stopping students from starting gay-straight alliances and have the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Human Rights Act become the basis for all programs in the provinces schools, replacing the “common values and beliefs of Albertans” standard.
Critics such as Campaign Life Coalition Alberta say that Bill 202 violates the religious rights of parents who may want to direct their children’s moral education on matters of sexuality. The Association of Reformed Political Action says it “drives a wedge between parents and their children” by removing the parental right to know what their children are being taught in school.
Bill 10 was the government’s response to Bill 202, but Prentice faced criticism from both the opposition and from his own Red Tory base that the bill did not go far enough in protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, and went too far in protecting the rights of parents.
When he introduced Bill 10, Prentice said, “Bill 202 asks us to cast aside our constituents’ beliefs in parental rights (and) in the autonomy of school boards to support GSAs. It’s unfair to us and to those whom we represent.” It now appears that he may willing to throw those constituents under the bus.
“What they are really trying to do,” said Jojo Ruba, director of Faith Beyond Belief, a Christian apologetics advocacy group, “is to tell Christian schools how they should teach Christianity.” Ruba said that the Education Act “allows Christian parents to band together and found schools where they teach their children their religious beliefs alongside the provincial curriculum,” but with the proposed changes, “the state can step into that school and force the children to be taught the opposite of what the parents are teaching.”
Alberta funds Catholic schools through the public system and funds 80 per cent of independent school costs, including schools that have a faith foundation. Ruba said there are people intent in dismantling the private and Catholic schools.
There is no indication when or if Prentice will reintroduce Bill 10 or whether he will amend it.