September 13, 2019 (The Interim) — Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Think back to the year 2000, or even 2010, and imagine someone telling you this: “The law requires every school to set up a Gay Straight Alliance for K–12 children. No exemption for religious belief or parental opposition. The law makes it illegal for teachers and principals to inform parents about the contents (sexual, ideological or otherwise) of what will be presented to their children at GSA meetings and GSA activities, and about which person or organization will be presenting such materials. Further, the law makes it illegal for teachers and principals to inform parents about their own child’s involvement in a GSA or GSA-related activity.”
“The government’s official GSA website, directed at K–12 children, has links to vile and graphic pornography. GSA activism in schools is carried out by individuals and organizations that promote a progressive perspective on sexuality that is hostile to what most religions teach about sexual morality, gender and marriage. If the school principal refuses to set up a GSA, the Education Minister can appoint an LGBTQ activist to set up and run the club.”
“The law makes it illegal for teachers and principals to inform parents about the contents (sexual, ideological or otherwise) of what will be presented to their children at GSA meetings and GSA activities, and about which person or organization will be presenting such materials.”
GSAs are used to promote transgenderism, thereby harming vulnerable children whose parents are unable to help and support their own kids, because parents are kept in the dark about what transpires at schools.”
Had you warned people about the above scenario in 2000 (or even 2010) you would have been accused of paranoia and fear-mongering. Yet this situation defines the reality of education in Alberta, thanks to laws passed by Progressive Conservatives (2015) and the NDP (2017).
Fortunately, the new United Conservative Party (UCP) government has now repealed Bill 24, the 2017 law which kept parents in the dark about their own children.
Sadly, the UCP government has not yet agreed to repeal or amend Bill 10, the 2015 law which requires schools to establish, host and facilitate ideological clubs whose message is hostile to what religious schools teach about gender, marriage and sexual morality. Premier Jason Kenney believes that children who are too immature to vote, join the military, consume alcohol or even smoke a cigarette should have the legal authority to set up a school club of the child’s own choosing, even if parents, teachers and principals disagree with the club.
For any reasonable person, keeping secrets from parents is an obvious red flag that warns of unacceptable danger. Would you enroll your child in ballet, or a martial arts class, if you were told that a portion of the class would be secret, and parents would not be informed about what transpired during those secret times? Would you allow your child to play hockey if the coach told you that anonymous strangers would teach your child about sexual topics? Would you be okay with not knowing the sexual and political contents of what your child will be exposed to at a soccer practice or Girl Guide meeting? Yet the foregoing describes the secretive reality of Alberta’s schools in 2019.
The Bill 24 secrecy provisions obviously harm children, yet this law’s repeal was not a foregone conclusion.
In 2018, dozens of schools and individual parents challenged Bill 24 for violating both religious freedom and parental rights, as protected by the Charter. This court action raised public awareness about a very dangerous law, and kept Bill 24 in the news. The court action also created a province-wide network of parents and schools who otherwise would have felt discouraged, with each school isolated in its own separate bubble. The court action made it easier for parents and schools to communicate with each other, and with elected officials. The court action gave parents the opportunity to tell the stories of how GSAs had harmed their children, by sworn affidavits that have been filed with the court, and also posted at www.JCCF.ca. The court action helped make it possible for the United Conservative Party to take a stance against Bill 24 secrecy provisions, in spite of intense lobbying by activists who reject parental rights as one of the cornerstones of our free society.
In September 2018, the NDP education minister, David Eggen, threatened religious schools with defunding if they refused to remove religious content from their own school policies. This caused immense stress and anxiety to thousands of parents, principals, teachers and children across Alberta. Thanks to the court action, the schools stood strong and refused to back down. Eggen blinked; no schools were defunded.
Like all good things, the repeal of Bill 24 has come at a price. Those lacking intelligent arguments engaged in the usual name-calling: “hateful,” “bigot,” “homophobic,” and “you don’t care if gay teenagers commit suicide.” For many of the schools and parents who took Bill 24 to court, it has been a difficult, painful experience, even if vicious name-calling shows that Bill 24 supporters don’t have a case.
As of September 1, Bill 24 ceases to be in force. Citizens who cherish a free society should celebrate this victory. However, this is no time to rest. Albertans who want to protect their children from being harmed by GSAs need to let Premier Kenney know that ideological clubs should not be forced on schools.
Lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca), which represented parents and schools in their successful challenge to Alberta’s Bill 24.