Education bill debated

A number of Central Alberta homeschooling parents want amendments made to Bill 2, otherwise known as the new Education Act, due to increasing concerns that it will restrict their right to teach their children what they want.

A number of Central Alberta homeschooling parents want amendments made to Bill 2, otherwise known as the new Education Act, due to increasing concerns that it will restrict their right to teach their children what they want.

Section 16 of the bill requires schools, including homeschools, to “honour and respect” the Alberta Human Rights Act and parents are worried this will limit their freedom to teach with a faith-based curriculum.

“Everything I teach, every hour of the day, is done by the word of Bible,” said Andrée Verhoog, a Ponoka parent who has been homeschooling her four daughters ­— ages 18, 16, 11 and nine — for the past seven years. She’s worried she won’t be able to teach the Bible as truth if her lesson plans have to adhere to the Alberta Human Rights Act.

Verhoog and hundreds of other homeschoolers took part in a rally organized by the Alberta Home Education Association outside the Alberta legislature in Edmonton on Monday. The association is recommending, along with Wildrose Party education critic Rob Anderson, that Section 16 of the bill be reworded to “Education programs offered and instructional materials used in schools must not promote or foster doctrines of racial or ethnic superiority or persecution, religious intolerance or persecution, social change through violent action or disobedience of laws.”

This would leave out the Alberta Human Rights Act.

Paul van den Bosch is a Red Deer father who has homeschooled all his seven children for the past 19 years along with his wife, Mary.

“We don’t have a problem with the human rights act,” said van den Bosch, also an Alberta Home Education Association board member. “What’s troubling is the way that act has been used in the past in obstructing freedom of thought, expression and religion.”

Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary was brought before a tribunal in 2005 after sending out a letter in his bulletin calling homosexuality a sin. Local Red Deer Rev. Stephen Boissoin was also convicted, although the conviction was later overturned, of hate speech in regards to homosexuality in 2008.

If the government can target a bishop, who’s to say they won’t target a homeschooler down the road, asked van den Bosch.

Not every homeschooler is troubled by Bill 2.

Karen Miller homeschools her three children and doesn’t have a problem with the new act.

“I don’t teach with a faith-based approach though I can see why those that do are a bit concerned,” she said. “But in my opinion, the government just wants to encourage families and religious schools to acknowledge and respect diversity.”

Bill 2, tabled by the provincial government on Feb. 14, is undergoing its second reading and would replace the existing School Act when adopted.

“We just want our parental rights and freedoms respected in the end,” said van den Bosch.

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