Monday, May 25, 2009

Alberta's Bill 44 Embarassment Broadens.

UPDATE May 25 @ 2:15 pm: Minister of Culture and Community Spirit, Lindsay Blackett said in Question Period today that the GOA has been listening and Bill 44 is being amended. We can expect that will happen tomorrow. Hoping the matter stays in the School Act and we define the terms and conditions that create an opt-out in language that offers more clarity than in the current version of Bill 44. STAY TUNED!!!

The controversy around the opting-out provisions proposed in the draft Alberta Human Rights Act is not going away and now the rest of Canada is getting involved - and not just watching as we institutionalize bigotry in our proposed human rights legislation.

The Globe and Mail reports today that the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has written to the Progressive Conservative Alberta government about the folly of this proposed legislation. They say "no valid public interest is gained" by extending a parental rights clause. They also say if Alberta proceeds in this way it will "become a counterproductive precedent" for other provinces.

Here is the quote I love. "You should be able to exclude your kids from indoctrination but not from knowledge." That is the core ethical issue at stake here. Parental choice and role is vitally important and they already have all the respect and protection they need in the current Alberta School Act to ensure no school will provide unwanted religious instruction and human sexuality instruction. Those exclusions ensure parents who want to exclude their children from school courses involving those topics are free to do so. That is an acceptable, effective and working current policy that does not need changing. It sure does not need fixing.

The motives behind the proposed changed to require a parental right elevate the exclusions to a human right, not a personal parental privilege, is admitted to be a sop to bigotry in a quote attributed to the Minister ironically responsible for "Culture and Community Spirit." The ultra-right elements in the "Progressive (sic) Conservative government are insisting that opting out be elevated to a human right and expanded and extended " an olive branch to religious groups and conservative voters who might be offended by the provinces move to recognize gay rights.

This political pandering masquerading as public policy pragmatism is offensive to the vast majority of Albertans. The mainstream of Alberta society what an inclusive, diverse and respectful society that thrives on differences and doesn't fear them. Gay rights are not negotiable. They are the law of the land. Legislators make those laws and they ought to be the first to respect them. It is a fundamental character flaw of politicians to even presume to negotiate institutionalizing bigotry on the basis of sexual orientation. To accept this into law to merely appease some ultra-right religious fundamentalists who dogmatically refuse to accept the fact of diverse sexual orientations as a reality is appalling.

Parents legitimately have the option to exclude their children from instruction on matters of instruction in areas of religion and human sexuality as is the case today in the Alberta School Act. That privilege protects their children from indoctrination. What Bill 44 does is say the opting out extends to the general topic of religion and sexual orientation. That crosses the line from protecting children from indoctrination to keeping them ignorant and excluded from access to useful knowledge. That is not acceptable in our modern Canadian and Albertan societal values.

Of course parents have a vital role to play in the education of their children and in teaching and transmitting social values to them. That parental privilege does not extend to the promotion of prejudice and potential persecution of teachers and school trustees as Bill 44 will empower them to do. Kill the opting out provisions of Bill 44 and leave the School Act as it is - that is protection enough for parents - and for the right reasons too.