Bill 44 under revision

Alberta’s contentious legislation to extend human rights protection to parents who want their children excluded from classes about sex or religion will be amended before becoming law.

Alberta’s contentious legislation to extend human rights protection to parents who want their children excluded from classes about sex or religion will be amended before becoming law.

Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett said Monday that a new section will be added to Bill 44 on Tuesday making it clear there will be no restrictions on general classroom discussions related to sex or religion.

“When a student comes up with a project, the teacher can’t always know the subject matter or the content of it until it’s presented,” Blackett told reporters.

Parents will only have the right to pull their kids from lessons that are in the formal curriculum, he said.

But Blackett also explained that the government wants to make it clear to parents that they should take their concerns to education officials first to avoid a flood of human rights complaints.

“Right now the human rights commission is a dumping ground,” he said.

“If a parent has a complaint about not being notified or not having their child opt out of a course of study, then they should be going to their teacher, principal or school board.”

Legislation now before the assembly would add these parental rights to Alberta’s Human Rights Act, rather than simply strengthening existing provisions in the School Act that allow parents to pull their children from sex education classes.

Premier Ed Stelmach’s Progressive Conservative government decided on this action at the same time that it agreed to follow through on a 1998 Supreme Court ruling ordering that gay rights be included under human rights protection.

The tradeoff was immediately condemned by Alberta’s teachers’ union, the association representing school boards and several human rights groups.

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