Lost beneath the avalanche of attention given to the issue of Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) by the media and opposition parties is this important fact: Bill 10 represented an attempt by the Alberta government to uphold the rights of parents over the education of their children. We at PCE applaud Premier Prentice and his government for doing so.
Relatively little mention has been made – in either media reports or in the Legislature itself – of the fact that Bill 202 represented a direct attack on parental rights. Bill 10 sought – rightly – to counter that attack by including parents’ rights over the education of their children in the Education Act itself.
Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman, in her private member’s bill (Bill 202), could have focused exclusively on GSAs. Her colleague Kent Hehr did just that last spring, when he put forward his (quickly defeated) motion requesting support for the concept of mandating GSAs in all Alberta schools. But Ms. Blakeman chose to go further:
She sought to mandate GSAs in all Alberta schools (as opposed to simply seeking support for the idea, as Mr. Hehr’s previous motion had) and she sought to erode parental rights in education:
- by removing Section 11.1 of the Alberta Human Rights Act (AHRA); and
- by amending Section 16 of the Education Act so that “all courses…and instructional materials must honour and respect . . . the Alberta Human Rights Act.”
There is little question that Ms. Blakeman knew full well that her bill was going to be divisive, and that it had exactly no chance of being passed as it was written. That she chose to try to score political points by placing LGBT students in the middle of this debate is unfortunate, if not outright shameful.
By contrast, Bill 10, as it is currently written, seeks to balance the rights of students, school boards, and parents. Ironically, even though it is the less radical bill, it has generated significantly more heat and uproar in the media.
While there are some sections of our society who believe that the government should be co-parents, if not the ultimate authority over children’s lives, and/or that children should be completely autonomous from their parents, our laws still recognize the authoritative role that parents play in the lives of their children. Currently, the government seeks to intervene in families only in extreme cases rather than as a matter of course, and this is as it should be . . . and as it should remain.
Is there room for improvement in Bill 10? Absolutely. But in terms of parental rights, this government bill is a vast improvement over Bill 202. We encourage Premier Prentice and his government to stay the course on Bill 10 with regard to the respect it demonstrates to the rights of parents in Alberta over their children’s education.