Alberta Parental Rights in Education Could be Implemented by October, Teachers Upset

Fri Aug 14, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

By Patrick B. Craine

EDMONTON, Alberta, August 14, 2009 ( - Alberta's new legislation, Bill 44, that recognizes the rights of parents to oversee their children's education, could be implemented as early as October or November, says Culture and Community Spirit Minister Lindsay Blackett.

The controversial bill would amend the province's human rights legislation to require school officials to inform parents in advance of direct discussions about religion, sexuality, or sexual orientation.  The bill does not cover indirect or casual classroom discussions, however.

Before it was passed in June, the bill was praised by a coalition of pro-family advocates, but was opposed by various associations of educational professionals, representing the teachers, the school councils, school boards, and superintendents, as well as by gay activists and some parents.

Under the bill, parents could bring complaints against teachers to the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission (AHRCC) if they feel their rights have been violated.

Minister Blackett told CBC that the bill will not be instituted until October or November, because of continuing discussion over how the legislation will be implemented in the classrooms, and because time is needed for changes to be made in the AHRCC.

"We're looking at overall governance of the commission and we're also looking at training of staff within the commission," Blackett told CBC. "So a lot of those things have to happen and we'd like to get them all tidied up before we actually proclaim the bill into law."

Following CBC's report, the Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) was surprised by the Minister's plans to bring in the legislation so early, having hoped it would be delayed until the 2010-11 school year.

"There are some serious problems with implementation and protocols," said association president Carol Henderson to the Edmonton Journal on Wednesday.  "We were a little bit concerned at how quickly things were moving along."

The Journal reports that teachers are concerned about the possibility of having human rights complaints brought against them due to errors in implementation.  According to ATA spokesman, Dennis Theobald, the law still needs to be clarified, particularly regarding dispute resolution.

Blackett, however, said on Tuesday that "the silent majority" are in favour of protecting parental rights.  "For those people around the country that think that's somehow wrong," he said and added, "we in Alberta believe in family values, because the family's at the core of what makes a great community….We're taking a lead, here."

Alberta's lead could challenge the other provinces, said Blackett.  "Every province is different," he said.  "I know that some are interested, but I'm not sure they have the courage to go there."

As Culture Minister, Blackett oversees the human rights commission process in the province.  While proud of Alberta's protection of "family values" in the new bill, Bill 44 also represents Alberta's capitulation to the homosexual agenda, enshrining "sexual orientation" as prohibited grounds for discrimination.

See related coverage:

Alberta Government Refuses HRC Reform, Adds "Sexual Orientation" to Anti-Discrimination Law

Coalition of Family Organizations Says Alberta Government Should Enshrine Parental Rights

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