Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 11, 2009
Human rights legislation gets a D+ mark
A Shepherd Speaks
By BISHOP FRED HENRY
As a teacher, I would give the provincial government’s Bill 44 a D+ grade, a pass, but not resounding approval.
Many of us, especially those who have been charged under the current Alberta’s Human Rights legislation, have been advocating for significant legislative reforms, that is, to incorporate amendments to preclude anti-religious actions.
The B.C. government initiated and reached an agreement in April 2006 (“the Correns Agreement”) with two homosexual activists (Murray and Peter Corren) in settlement of the Correns’ complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Commission.
Basically, the Correns’ complaint consisted of allegations that the B.C. government’s neglect to actively promote sexual orientation in the public school curriculum constituted discrimination. It is indeed difficult to see the logic that absence of promotion of “sexual orientation” in schools has much academic or human rights relevancy.
Nevertheless, the Corren Agreement essentially gave special rights to two individuals in dictating the contents of the curriculum for kindergarten to Grade 12 and in policy of public education. Major media termed the Corren Agreement as “extraordinary” or “unprecedented” or “first in North America.”
By virtue of the Corren Agreement, parents’ rights in withdrawing their children from classes teaching sensitive materials are severely limited except in one course — Health and Career.
It also gives the Correns unprecedented rights to be consulted (including individuals and organizations recommended by them) with respect to revision of all curriculum, and to dictate priority in promoting sexual orientation in the curriculum of all grades including kindergarten as well as a teachers’ guide.
The proposed Alberta Bill 44 amendments include “sexual orientation” as an added protected area. Since there is a tendency to further extend this protection to mean promotion of a lifestyle, many parents requested that this kind of initiative be balanced by explicit confirmation of parental rights regarding the education of their children.
A similar provision already exists in the School Act at section 50 (2). The United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights Article 26 (3) states,“Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”
It is not the prerogative of the Tory Government or the Alberta Teachers Association or any other group to override this fundamental right. Rather, they should seek reasonable accommodation in a pluralistic society with the clear awareness that they are to serve parents, not to usurp them, nor to treat them with disdain.
Furthermore, all education is faith-based to some extent. It’s time to ask why the opinions of the majority of the citizens in Alberta are being ignored, that is, “Why should the faith of the atheist and agnostic be the only and the governing paradigm in public education?”
Regrettably, it is all downhill from that point on in the proposed bill.
There should have been amendments to Section 7 and 8 so that there would be protection of freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and freedom of assembly.
It needs to be affirmed that there is a public place for varied views and practical projects based upon differing belief systems which allow for the provision of services that people want and that the “common good” deems necessary within political spending, criteria and rules of fairness.
It would also have been timely to address the issue of freedom of conscience, rights of health care professionals and pharmacists in Alberta.
Lastly, and most significantly, the bill fails to amend Section 3. The government opted for a minimalist or housekeeping approach to the act’s revision, hiding behind statements like: “Alberta’s human rights legislation will balance freedom of speech with our responsibility to others” and “Jurisdictional issues are complex, but recognising the responsibilities that come with freedom of expression is also important.”
It is painfully obvious that the majority of the caucus didn’t read Ezra Levant’s Shakedown. Pity. D+ might even be too generous a mark!
Letter to the Editor - 05/25/09