To: Hon. George Rogers
Cc: Hon. Alison Redford, Hon. Thomas Lukaszuk
Subject: Concerns about Proposed Education Act
Hon. George Rogers:
I am writing to express my concerns about Bill 2 (the proposed Education Act), particularly section 16, as well as section 192(2) and section 112(1).
Section 16 of the new legislation restates the current School Act‘s requirement that “school[s] must reflect the diverse nature and heritage of society in Alberta” in their curriculum. However it adds that they must also “promote understanding and respect for others and honour and respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Human Rights Act.” The Alberta Human Rights Act was amended in 2009. Formerly, this act stated that “the status of being married, single, widowed, divorced, separated or living with a person of the opposite sex in a conjugal relationship outside marriage.” The word “status” was changed to “state”; however, more importantly, the phrase, “of the opposite sex” was removed, giving legislative sanction to homosexual relationships, particularly “marriage.” Catholic teaching maintains that marriage is between one man and one woman. I am concerned that Catholic schools will be prevented from teaching that homosexual acts are wrong.
Donna McColl, the spokesperson for Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, made this point very clear while speaking to LifeSiteNews on February 22. She said, ”Whatever the nature of schooling – homeschool, private school, Catholic school – we do not tolerate disrespect for differences.” She goes on to say that Christian homeschooling families can continue to impart Biblical teachings on homosexuality in their homes, “as long as it’s not part of their academic program of studies and instructional materials.” One would assume that this would also apply to Catholic schools.
This position in itself shows an intolerance and disrespect for differences. In a healthy democratic system, different points of view need to be tolerated and respected. It is important to note Catholic schools (and the Catholic Church) respect and promote the dignity of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation. They do this while simultaneously teaching that certain actions are wrong including homosexual acts. Though the Catholic Church is sometimes accused of hate mongering this in fact is not the case.
I believe that the sate cannot control what a religion teaches. I am concerned the Alberta government is stepping beyond its authority (as are other governments). When a government decides what a religiously based school can morally teach, they have crossed the line into religious thought and belief. It is the prerogative of any government to decide what is legally permissible. However, I do not believe it is the prerogative of a government to decide what morals can and cannot be taught in a religiously based school system. Catholic schools have the right and responsibility to teach Catholic beliefs. These rights were recognized upon the formation of the province of Alberta. Simply put, the proposed Education Act undermines the fundamental rights of the Catholic school system.
This proposed undermining of the fundamental rights of the Catholic school system in Alberta is even more evident in section 192(2), which states that “[w]hen, in the opinion of the Minister, space is available in a school building, the Minister may direct the board operating the school building to make that space available to another board.” This would mean that the Alberta government could force a Catholic school to share facilities with a Public school. Every aspect of Alberta’s Catholic schools is filled with the Catholic faith, from the building structure, to the curriculum, to the recognition of Catholic Gospel values and Sacramental life. To maintain this uniqueness, Catholic schools must remain distinct and separate entities.
This proposed blending of Catholic schools with public schools is not limited to just the school building. Section 112(1) states that “[t]he Minister may, by order, establish a school division consisting of any number of public school districts, separate school districts and school divisions established under this Act.” This clearly violates Albertan’s rights enshrined in The Alberta Act:
17. Section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867 shall apply to the said province, with the substitution for paragraph (1) of the said section 93, of the following paragraph:-
“(1) Nothing in any such law shall prejudicially affect any right or privilege with respect to separate schools which any class of persons have at the date of the passing of this Act, under the terms of chapters 29 and 30 of the Ordinances of the North-west Territories, passed in the year 1901, or with respect to religious instruction in any public or separate school as provided for in the said ordinances.”
(2) In the appropriation by the Legislature or distribution by the Government of the province of any moneys for the support of schools organized and carried on in accordance with the said chapter 29, or any Act passed in amendment be no discrimination against schools of any class described in the said chapter 29.
(3) Where the expression “by law” is employed in paragraph (3) of the said section 93, it shall be held to mean the law as set out in the said chapters 29 and 30; and where the expression “at the Union” is employed, in the said paragraph (3), it shall be held to mean the date at which this Act comes into force.
I am very concerned about the proposed Education Act and its threat to the rights of Catholics to a Catholic education. I urge you to protect those rights. I urge you to vote “no” to the proposed Education Act. I am confident you will do this as you have visited, spoke at and supported Catholic schools in the past.
R. J. Grigaitis, O.F.S.