Human rights changes dumb

First they came for the journalists. Then they came for the teachers. Who’s next? Let’s hope it’s the people responsible for Bill 44 because the Alberta government’s proposed changes to human rights legislation make matters worse, not better.

First they came for the journalists. Then they came for the teachers. Who’s next? Let’s hope it’s the people responsible for Bill 44 because the Alberta government’s proposed changes to human rights legislation make matters worse, not better.

It is time to speak up before the new law is passed.

Bill 44 to amend the Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act does nothing to protect freedom of speech and now puts teachers at risk of facing human rights complaints for violating the parental “right” to opt children out of lessons having to do with religion, sexuality or sexual orientation.

The failure to protect a fundamental right and the creation of an artificial one smacks of unprincipled political compromise and a poor grasp of the unintended consequences of ill-considered policy-making.

Freedom of speech is a fundamental right in a democratic society, and it should go without saying – but unfortunately does not – that any government committed to protecting rights and freedoms should not empower human rights commissions to restrict free speech. When offensive speech turns into incitement to violence, we’ve got the Criminal Code to deal with it.

Lately, there were encouraging signs that Lindsay Blackett, Alberta’s Minister responsible for human rights, was showing such courage and ethical leadership. He suggested that fixing section 3 of Alberta’s human rights act was all but done because people “should have the ability to say what they say and somebody should have their ability to have the counter argument. That is what a free and open society does.”

But now, in response to the government’s decision to do nothing about s.3, he says “I can have my opinion but, when it comes to caucus, the caucus decision goes forward,” and he compares the failure to achieve legislative change on a fundamental point of principle to not getting a pair of skates he once wanted.

Unfortunately, it gets worse. Not only does the proposed legislation fail to protect free speech, it also would enshrine a parental opt-out clause that is a slippery slope to legal and administrative chaos.

Parents could object to almost anything on these grounds – say, a history lesson on the Protestant Reformation or a literature course on that randy Shakespeare. The premier even admits that parents could remove children from courses dealing with evolution.

For every parental objection, there could be human rights cases against teachers, administrators or school boards for failing to notify parents about any lesson that falls afoul of this excessively broad and vague provision.

The administration of the opt-out would also be unwieldy: how could advance notice be given for every single lesson or class discussion dealing with religion, sexuality or sexual orientation?

Besides, the education department already mandates advance notice and an opt-out for clearly specified courses dealing with human sexuality (i.e., sex education), so why enshrine it in fundamental human rights legislation and open the door to exemptions to the entire curriculum?

Dan Shapiro is a research associate at the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership.

Just Posted

Cannabis legalization won’t impact one Red Deer pot dispensary

Nothing changes for Compass Cannabis Clinic in Red Deer despite legalization

Cannabis retail store will open later in October in Red Deer

Two cannabis stores coming to downtown Red Deer

Neighbours drop opposition to Red Deer County communications tower

Communication tower to be located in Balmoral Heights

Legal cannabis comes with many unknowns: Red Deer County councillors

Councillors question how rural municipalities will be able to enforce cannabis regulations

Kitten season puts pressure on Red Deer shelter

More public education needed to control cat population

WATCH: Two weeks away from Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer

In just two weeks, Ponoka’s Shayna Weir will compete with the best… Continue reading

‘Start low, go slow’: Experts walk bud beginners through cannabis 101

With the countdown to cannabis legalization Wednesday ticking towards 4-20, some novice… Continue reading

NHL stays with status quo as Canada pot legalization looms

As Riley Cote took and delivered countless punches over more than a… Continue reading

Paul Stanley: Kiss farewell tour could include ex-members

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — It won’t be all night, but former members… Continue reading

Judge tosses Stormy Daniels’ defamation suit against Trump

WASHINGTON — A federal judge dismissed Stormy Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against President… Continue reading

Canada open to growing trade with China now that USMCA is a done deal: PM

TORONTO — Canada is open to doing more business with China now… Continue reading

Pot shop raids “highly unlikely” on Wednesday: head of police chiefs

VANCOUVER — Police departments across Canada are fully prepared for marijuana legalization… Continue reading

Campers will be able to smoke cannabis at campsites in Canada’s national parks

Parks Canada says visitors should do their research on cannabis before going… Continue reading

U.S. pot firms urge Trump to deny Canadian producers’ ‘competitive advantage’

WASHINGTON — An American cannabis producer is warning President Donald Trump that… Continue reading

Most Read