Alberta’s PC government has opened the quintessential can of worms in what can only be described to be an incompetent attempt to comply with a Supreme Court of Canada ruling.
The Supreme Court of Canada, 10 years ago, ruled that the Alberta government had to include sexual orientation in its Human Rights Code. After years of non-compliance, the Stelmach government introduced Bill 44 this session, to comply with the court’s ruling. However, in introducing Bill 44, Ed Stelmach’s government also elevated parents’ rights to pull their child out of any classroom that deals with issues of sex or religion — to a human rights issue.
To the average person this may seem relatively insignificant. The right of a parent to pull their child out of a classroom involving human sexuality or religious studies already exists in Alberta’s School Act. So what is all the hub-bub about?
By making a parent’s right to remove their child from a classroom a human rights issue, Alberta’s PC government has created a legal nightmare for school administrators and teachers. The legal complexities are very real; human rights violations are discriminatory and subject the offender to numerous liabilities and possible penalties.
If Bill 44 is passed, could a child’s parent sue a teacher or a school board for discrimination, if their child is removed from a classroom, as requested, when evolution is taught — but is denied equal instruction in, say, creationism? Could a child later in life sue their parents, the teachers and the school board if some students were taught both evolution and creationism, and yet they were denied instruction in one or the other?
By making this a human rights issue, what happens if the parents disagree on whether their child should be removed from a classroom? Can one parent sue another for grandchild support payments as the result of an unwanted pregnancy in the absence of equal instruction in sex education? Which parent is correct and whose human rights would be violated? Who decides what equal instruction is, and what is discriminatory?
Most likely, expensive long drawn-out court cases will eventually answer some of these questions.
This legislative session has been a nightmare for Albertans. More than one bill has stripped seniors and landowners of their basic democratic rights. Now our public education system is under siege from an ill-conceived Bill 44.
What should have been a simple housekeeping amendment to the human rights code, to include sexual orientation, has culminated in unnecessary tinkering of the code that will most assuredly end up in court.
Alberta Green Party Leader