War of words delays act

If it’s true, as Red Deer’s Paul van den Bosch says, that the six words “and the Alberta Human Rights Act” may end up having killed the reform of Alberta’s Education Act, that would be a shame.

If it’s true, as Red Deer’s Paul van den Bosch says, that the six words “and the Alberta Human Rights Act” may end up having killed the reform of Alberta’s Education Act, that would be a shame.

There may be any number of flaws in Bill 2, but fearing human rights legislation shouldn’t be one of them.

But there’s plenty of fear out there. A column in the Edmonton Journal last week referenced “an outpouring of fury and death threats” aimed at Education Minister Thomas Lakaszuk. It included vicious homophobic emails (the content of which Journal editors declined to publish).

This, because some parents feared Big Brother, via a human rights tribunal, might force parents who homeschool to tone down their talk around the kitchen table.

Not during school hours — the current act already allows parents to pull their kids away from any course material that touches on sexuality, sexual orientation or religion that they may not like.

But around the table during suppertime, because homeschooling does not draw a very clear line around when school is in and when it’s not.

We’re all allowed to rant in our homes about anything we want (and some of us do). But when our ranting violates the Alberta Human Rights Act during school time, there could be problems.

At least, that appears to have been the fear. Human rights tribunals are complaint-driven, and given that the most likely complainant would be a student, that does raise an uncomfortable dynamic.

Human rights tribunals are not fun affairs. This newspaper has been through one. These quasi-judicial proceedings are widely perceived to be used as weapons by people with an agenda at the extreme opposite of the alleged agenda of the person subject to complaint. The rules governing proceedings are infamously skewed, the rulings are arbitrary and outside the powers granted by the Alberta Human Rights Act, they have little validity or credibility.

That said, let’s keep our fears in perspective.

People opposed to the wording of Section 16 and the preamble of Bill 2 speak of the “stealth language” that might put family conversation into the public domain of a tribunal.

Paul Faris, chair of Home School Legal Defence Association of Canada, says with all sincerity that he’s “hearing from people saying ‘I don’t really want my children being taught to respect religions that I don’t like.’ ”

What kind of language do we hear there?

Which side is gaining stealth toward hate or repression?

In Canada’s most libertarian province, homeschoolers in Alberta get more government funding and have more freedom of conscience than in almost any part of North America.

There’s no need to adhere to provincial curriculum no need for children to prove they’ve learned anything through standardized testing.

If you want to teach that modern humans and dinosaurs once walked the Earth together, you can mark that correct on your history exams.

There have been more books banned from public schools (Catcher in the Rye, Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harry Potter to name a few) than the lexicon that could be banned from a homeschool library. Because of the Human Rights Act, neither the Bible nor Qua’ran can be pushed out of the home.

Barring 11th-hour heroics, Bill 2 looks like it will only return (in significantly amended form) after the next election — if at all. We are all free to judge the wisdom of that.

But as a U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in his inaugural address: “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”

To defeat those fears, we need to identify and name them.

Greg Neiman is an Advocate editor.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Gov’t of Alberta identifies estimated 300 new COVID-19 cases Sunday

Online COVID-19 dashboard unavailable as upgrades being completed

The Central Alberta Freestyle Ski Club is hoping to win $50,000 through the Mackenzie Investments Top Peak contest. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta ski club trying to win $50K in online contest

A central Alberta ski club has entered a contest where it can… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Red Deer dips below 300 active COVID-19 cases

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Red Deer continued to drop… Continue reading

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan takes part in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa on December 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives to call top Sajjan, Trudeau aides to testify on Vance allegations

OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives plan to summon two senior Liberal aides… Continue reading

Elvira D'Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Several provinces were preparing to loosen COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday, as Canada’s… Continue reading

Mount Pearl Senior High in Mount Pearl, N.L., remains closed on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The provincial health authority says there were 185 cases at 22 schools, including 145 infections among staff and students of one high school in Mount Pearl that was an early epicentre of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
In Newfoundland and Labrador, three ingredients made for explosive COVID-19 outbreak

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — With her classes, three part-time jobs and a… Continue reading

A passenger places a tag on luggage at the departure terminal at Toronto Pearson Airport, in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, May 24, 2019. The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many recent immigrants to leave Canada and return to their countries of origin, where they have more social and familial connections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
COVID-19 pandemic prompts recent newcomers to leave Canada for their home countries

OTTAWA — The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Rail cars wait for pickup in Winnipeg, Sunday, March 23, 2014. The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian oil and gas on trains destined for the United States — a country experts fear is ill-equipped for the potential consequences. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
As debate rages over cross-border pipelines, U.S. analysts brace for more oil by rail

WASHINGTON — The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian… Continue reading

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

VICTORIA — Legal experts and a mother whose ex-partner was convicted of… Continue reading

Radio and television personality Dick Smyth is shown in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
Dick Smyth, Canadian maestro of news radio commentary, dies at 86

TORONTO — Radio and television personality Dick Smyth, whose booming commentary filled… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

Most Read