Alberta Lawmakers Approve Controversial ’Rights’ Law for Gays, Parents
Amended language to Alberta’s existing human rights legislation seeks to protect the province’s GLBT citizens, but also gives parents the right to keep their children out of classes dealing with sexuality and religion... including subjects such as sexual orientation and evolution.
The measure was highly controversial, and drew support from the province’s conservatives while liberals and moderates blasted it, according to a June 2 story posted at Canada.com.
Though the amendment to the Human Rights law included language to protect both gays and empower parents to shield their children from lessons they may not approve of, some saw a cynical quid pro quo in the combination.
Said lawmaker Kent Hehr, "I think at the end of the day it was a dirty little trade."
Indeed, for some gay parents the deal didn’t sit well; Lance Anderson and Blair Croft ave two adopted sons, and Anderson spoke out against the measure, saying, "This legislation tells these children that their families, their parents, are less than others around them."
Added Anderson of the measure’s requirement that teachers notify parents in advance of addressing subjects related to religion and human sexuality, "It’s not OK to pick on my kids because you don’t like me."
Anderson went on to declare, "I don’t need the Tory government to use these rights as a punching bag to hurt my children and their education.
"I fought this government before to adopt my children. I won. I’ll do it again."
The government seemed to be unconcerned with such outbursts, however, with Alberta’s Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett predicting that the fuss would die down soon.
Said Blackett, "Tomorrow the sun will rise, teachers will conduct their classes, and all will be right with the world," according to a June 2 article in the Edmonton Journal.
But Brian Mason, the head of the New Democratic Party, expressed concerns that a sliver of the populace was degrading education for the province as a whole.
"We’ve had a very vocal minority find a way through this government’s caucus to impose its will on the rest of us," said Mason.
"And I think the children will receive a different kind of education as a result of this bill."
Conservatives quashed debate, an action seen by some as authoritarian whereas Blackburn said it was a matter of practicality.
"We weren’t getting any further ahead," Blackett claimed.
"The same points were made over and over and over again.
"There was discussion about whether or not we should have a referendum, there was discussion about whether or not we had to delay this bill.
"We didn’t think we had to delay this bill."
Member of the Legislative Assembly Laurie Blakeman characterized the shutdown of discussion as conservatives looking to "stomp on the opposition to show them who’s boss."
The Education Minister, Dave Hancock, vowed to put fears to rest. "Once the bill is in place then we work together to make sure that it doesn’t put the chill effect that they’re concerned about in the classroom," the article quoted him as saying.
Last week, the province clarified some of the language in the bill, highlighting teachers should still be free to talk about sexual orientation or religion incidentally without notifying parents. Also, the proposed changes indicate people complaining to the human rights commission should show they first went through other avenues of complaint.
Conservatives praised the measure as putting the will of families ahead of that of the state.