Red Deer Catholic board will review relationship with pro-life group

Is there better way to deliver message? — board chair

Red Deer Catholic school board chairman Guy Pelletier

Red Deer Catholic school board chairman Guy Pelletier

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools trustees will be reviewing the district’s relationship with Red Deer and Area Pro Life following the classroom screening of a video that compared abortion to the Holocaust.

Guy Pelletier, school board chairman, said Thursday that Pro-Life’s comments in the media since Monday when the controversy began does give the board cause for concern as to whether they are the right group to deliver the message on human life and abortion.

“Will Pro Life be back in the school in the future? That’s the conversation we need to have.” He said because trustees haven’t had a more formal conversation as a full board yet, “I don’t want to presuppose what that conclusion is.”

Trustees will be discussing the matter soon at a mini retreat that had been scheduled before the controversy occurred.

“The conversation will likely be: Is there a better way to deliver that message to our students in a more appropriate manner?” Pelletier said.

Red Deer and Area Pro Life presented the short video, The Case Against Abortion: Personhood, at École Secondaire Notre Dame High School in March to a Grade 10 class.

Pelletier said that a concern that arose over the video went first from a third party to Alberta Education Minister David Eggen, so the district did not have an opportunity try and resolve it.

Eggen contacted Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools to express the government’s deep concern. He also said there is no place in a publicly-funded school for a video comparing the horrors of the Holocaust to abortion, and it was “completely outrageous.”

‘We’ve acknowledged mistakes were made and our commitment to do better,” Pelletier said. The board apologized earlier in the week for any issues that the video may have caused students, and it has implemented additional steps in its screening process for outside agencies.

“Certainly abortion is a very sensitive topic and it needs to be treated with compassion, sensitivity, grace and understanding, and I think in this case that didn’t happen. So that’s something the board acknowledges and our commitment is to make sure that we do better in the future,” Pelletier said.

“The material that they used shouldn’t have been used in a school.”

Joel Soodsma, Red Deer and Area Pro Life spokesman, said Wednesday his group maintains its views.

“Will we continue to use the Holocaust as a comparison to abortion? Yes. That video does that and we think that’s a valid comparison. There are are victims in both that are denied basic human rights.”

Soodsma, a long-time teacher at Rocky Christian School in Rocky Mountain House, said Red Deer and Area Pro Life typically does a total of six to 10 presentations per year in Central Alberta schools. “It’s usually Christian schools and Catholic schools who will let us in.”

When asked if he thought the particular video should continue to be part of the presentations in schools, he said, “Not necessarily, but the comparison, definitely.”