Alberta is pushing ahead with Canada’s first legislation to give parents the power under its human rights code to pull their children from lessons on sex, religion or sexual orientation.
In response to widespread criticism from school boards and human rights groups, Premier Ed Stelmach’s government has made only minor wording changes to the bill.
The amendments state parents will not have the option to pull their children if the topics come up in an incidental or indirect way during classroom discussions.
Liberal Laurie Blakeman called it a minor tweaking of Bill 44.
“Imagine the resources that will have to be used in every school to notify this parent, but not that parent,” she said. “This is going to change our school system. This should not exist and it should not be in the Human Rights Act.”
The Alberta School Boards Association has also been highly critical of the legislation and said the amendments will not satisfy the group’s concerns.
“They didn’t go as far as we thought they would be going,” said association president Heather Welwood.
“Parents should still be dealing with their concerns through the School Act. Do not do this under the human rights code.”
Welwood was hoping to see details to show how schools will be required to contact parents about lessons on sex, religion or gay issues.
“It still did not outline when a parent has to be informed, who they have to be informed by and what the notice has to look like,” she said.
“So the regulations and the bylaws (yet to come) are going to be extremely important.”
This action has been criticized as a trade-off for right-wing caucus members who are upset that the legislation also enshrines gay rights.
Stelmach said there’s always going to be controversy when human rights legislation comes before the legislature.
“But I believe all Albertans believe that the family unit is basic to our society,” Stelmach told the assembly during an exchange with the Liberal opposition.
“Why should we give this up to the sort of nanny state that the Liberals want to see in this province?”