EDMONTON, Alberta, April 20, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The Alberta New Democrat government is backing down on a controversial amendment sabotaging a Progressive Conservative motion that was originally crafted to affirm parental rights in choosing how to have their children educated – be it public, private, or home schooling. The move comes in response to an uprising of concerned parents who have been flooding the Ministry of Education and other political leaders with phone calls and emails.
Government House Leader Brian Mason exclusively told LifeSiteNews this afternoon that the amendment has been deleted.
“We have had further discussions with our members across the floor and have agreed now to withdraw the proposed amendment to Motion 504 as a showing of good faith. We will now proceed with debating the original motion in May and we can support it as it stands,” he said.
The retreat comes after a bizarre showdown took place in the Alberta Legislature earlier this week between interim PC Party leader Ric McIver and NDP House Speaker Bob Wanner. After McIver introduced his pro-parental rights motion, NDP MLA Robyn Luff immediately proposed an amendment that essentially gutted the motion of its original intent by affirming that choice in education is the government’s prerogative, not parents.
When Speaker Wanner ruled that the amendment was “in order” — reading his judgment from what was allegedly a pre-written document — McIver arose and challenged the judgment, saying he would not sit down until the apparently predetermined ruling had been reversed. Wanner eventually had McIver escorted from the room.
McIver’s original motion (M-504) urged the Government to “affirm its commitment to allowing parents the choice of educational delivery for their children, including home, charter, private, francophone, separate, or public education programs.” The NDP’s proposed amendment, however, urged the government to “support public education…while affirming its commitment to allowing parents the choice of education delivery for their children…where they offer alternatives not available in the public system.”
Critics slammed the amendment for making parental choice to school privately or at home conditional upon proving that the alternative they want for their child is not available in the public system.
Paul van den Bosch, president of the Alberta Home Education Association, told LifeSiteNews that the office of NDP Education Minister David Eggen phoned his organization yesterday to ask that it tell concerned parents that nothing is changing.
“They were getting a lot of phone calls and emails (from concerned parents) and wanted those to stop,” he said.
Parents who school their children at home were concerned that the proposed amendment, if passed, could jeopardize government funding for home schooling and even empower the government to force children into public schools.
“What the amendment says is that public education is the ‘gold standard’ and that only if there is something that is not available in public education can parents choose a private school or home education. It amounts to saying that children belong to the government, not to parents. This is completely backwards,” van den Bosch said.
Van den Bosch said he was not surprised to see an uprising of parents, saying that Alberta parents who choose to school their children at home have, over the last years, been trained by his organization — as well as organizations such as Parents for Choice in Education — how to be politically effective. He said that when parents saw a potential threat to their rights and freedoms regarding their children, they reacted.
“What we have been trying to do is to provide parents the tools to, first of all, be informed so that they know what is going on, so that they are politically aware, and, we've been trying to give them the tools so that they can be politically effective and active. We have been training them to see the need and to respond effectively.”
“We didn't put a post on our website saying, ‘Hey parents, you should call your MLA.’ Parents simply saw the need, and they reacted. They called and they emailed the Premier, the Education Minister, and their own MLA’s,” he said.
Meanwhile, McIver was allowed to return to the House yesterday morning.
He said in a statement made to the House yesterday afternoon that after receiving in a handout the proposed amendment to his motion, along with a document stating that the amendment was ‘in order’ — before the ruling had been made — that he “became convinced, rightly or wrongly, that all was not in order.”
“At the conclusion of the ruling I stood and refused to take my seat though you, Mr. Speaker, asked me to do so several times. Eventually you asked the Sergeant-at-Arms to escort me from the House.”
“I would like to acknowledge that when you did that, when you asked me to be removed from the House after I did not obey your request to sit down several times, you were correctly discharging your duties and acting within the scope of your authority. I recognize that,” he told the legislature.
Van den Bosch hopes that the net effect of the entire “soap opera” will be that the NDP will “re-discover that they shouldn't mess with parents.”
“If the NDP government needed proof for ‘don't mess with parental authority,’ they sure got that loud and clear,” he said. “If they truly learn that lesson, then this whole adventure will have a positive outcome,” he added.