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Education act pits parental rights against human rights

Global news, Licenses and Regulations

This isn’t about just home-schooling families and this isn’t about hate. This is about taking away parents’ rights to decide what is fundamentally right or wrong in their children’s lives and having the right to opt out.

A school is a means to deliver education. It isn’t a parental body that guides the way of the child based on personal principles and beliefs. That is for the parents to decide.

I am tired of being labelled homophobic because I am teaching my child that homosexuality is not something our family supports. We also don’t support adultery, premarital sex, drugs, having sex with children under the age of 14 and a litany of other things. It doesn’t make me hateful because our family believes in these things any more than it makes others hateful because they don’t support what we believe.

Do you want your child’s school board or teacher deciding on your behalf what those lessons will be? What if your teacher supports legalizing marijuana and other drugs?

Rita Kirsch, Spruce Grove

Broad-basedcoalitionRe: “Frenzy over education bill misplaced; Misinterpreting proposal isn’t helping debate,” by Paula Simons, March 22.The citizens and organizations that collectively have met under the umbrella of Citizens for Diversity in Education (CDE) represent a very significant percentage of Edmonton’s population and have representation from public schools, private schools and several large cultural groups which include Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and even those who are not of any faith community.

These people have come together as a result of what they see as a fundamental flaw in the text of the proposed Bill 2.

We agree absolutely with Paula Simons that vicious letters and death threats have no place in a civilized dialogue. It is a travesty however, to lump the comments of a fanatic fringe, who have been responsible for a handful of irresponsible comments, with the reasoned arguments of upstanding and informed citizens.

We would like to address a few points in Simons’ column.

First, there is a clear implication in the column that it is only those of the home-school community who were critical of the Section 16 of Bill 2. In fact, there is concern from a broad base of citizens from secular, religious and cultural perspectives. Hence CDE has spoken out against Section 16 of the act. Further, the Alberta Catholic School Trustees also oppose Section 16 and asked the government to publicly recognize the role of the parent as the primary educator.

This is far from being only a home-schooling issue.

Second, Simons suggests that parental rights are already enshrined in the Alberta Human Rights Act in Section 11.1 of Bill 44. In truth this is the very section that is at risk. Parental rights, or the role of parent as primary educator, have been recently challenged. Consider a motion passed by a major urban school board on Dec. 13, 2011 to “ request that Section 11.1 … be repealed.”

Premier Alison Redford has indicated she is favourably inclined to review Bill 44, specifically in reference to parental rights and ostensibly to making such an amendment subsequent to the passing of Bill 2.

Third, Simons states that home-schooling parents would never be called before the Alberta Human Rights Commission as it would require their own children to lodge a complaint. The AHRC’s complaint form and guide states that anyone can launch a complaint if they believe that someone has discriminated against them. They can even make a complaint on behalf of someone else.

With such criteria, intended or not, it is easy to imagine a flood of complaints from concerned citizens on any number of grounds. The history of the courts correcting judgments of the Alberta Human Rights Commission should rightly give any parent or teacher significant cause for concern.

Finally Simons did not address the natural erosion of the authority of elected school boards or elected members of the legislature as an appointed human rights commission begins to supersede the authority of elected officials.

That said, we could not agree more with Simons when she states, “I fundamentally oppose the use of quasi-judicial bodies such as the human rights commission to police education.”

Perhaps Simons and CDE are on the same page after all.

Stuart Wachowicz, Citizens for Diversity in Education, Edmonton

Parents rightto be alarmedAs a parent who has been involved with the protest against Bill 2, I find the sordid portrait of the average protester painted by Simons to be unrecognizable and her unsupported hearsay regarding “death threats” and an “unspeakably vicious campaign” dubious.

Are we alarmed by the association of the Alberta Human Rights Act with education? Yes. Do we buy the assurances of Simons and Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk that parents and teachers will have the freedom to disrespect certain behaviours and practices under this bill? No.

Geraint Roberts, Calgary

Opposition iswidespreadPaula Simons’ March 22 column is an inaccurate and incomplete representation of the facts.

It is not just home-schoolers who are concerned about the implications of Bill 2, the Education Act. At a March 19 rally, a representative of the Citizens for Diversity in Education (CDE) spoke strongly against this bill. The CDE represents people from many different cultural and religious backgrounds, the Association of Christian Schools International, REAL Women of Canada, a number of large Christian churches in the city and a majority of the Christian school programs within the Edmonton Public School District and greater Edmonton. The Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association is also strongly against the bill.

Simons seems to have forgotten that Premier Alison Redford has expressed the view that Section 11.1 of the Alberta Human Rights Act (Bill C-44) should be altered to remove parental rights regarding what is taught in all schools. The executive of the Alberta Teachers’ Association takes the same position: that educators, not parents, should have the final say in what children are taught. No wonder a vast number of Albertans are concerned about the proposed Education Act.

Bruce W. Wilkinson, professor emeritus, University of Alberta, Edmonton

Column misses point

I have no problem with Paula Simons invoking the Alberta Human Rights Act in her March 22 column. I do have a problem with her failure to grasp the fundamental reason for the concern of parents, Catholic school trustees, and some teachers in Alberta’s public schools.

Section 16 of Bill 2 places the determination of the acceptability of content, teaching resources and instruction under the Alberta Human Rights Act.

If Bill 2 is passed as it stands, the interpretation and enforcement of the Education Act will no longer fall under the purview of education minister or even the elected legislature, but rather into the hands of the non-elected Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Once approved, teachers accused of any assumed discriminatory act, behaviour or attitude by a student or parent will no longer be judged by their peers — the discipline committee of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. They will not be able to appeal to the minister for a hearing.

Instead, the matter will, by statute, be turned over to the Alberta Human Rights Commission, which has repeatedly been censured by the courts for its blatantly wrong interpretations of the law.

The real target of our virulent social engineers is not the home-schoolers, but rather students in the tax-supported public and separate classrooms across the province.

Leif Stolee, Edmonton

Freedomof religionOn the matter of whether one religion or another should be taught in schools, it should not be overlooked that the United Nation’s Charter of Rights, of which Canada is a signatory, guarantees the right of parents to educate children in the religion of their choice.

Education in our country is under provincial jurisdiction, but each province is a member of our Canadian federation.

Rene D. Benoiton, St. Albert

AlbertavaluesBill 2 takes the parental rights to teach children as parents see fit and gives it to the state.

Premier Alison Redford says her government is just putting into law a requirement that we teach our kids “Alberta values” ­— specifically, the Alberta Human Rights Act. The fact that the Alberta Human Rights Act has been used repeatedly by activists to ruin people’s finances and careers was completely glossed over.

The province already sets the curriculum; it doesn’t need a new law to do that.

By definition, parents already teach their kids Alberta values. Does the government think it knows which values are more Albertan than others?

Every new law and regulation takes away a little more of your freedom.

The Edmonton Journal, 24 March 2012

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