this blog has moved to a new address:

Please update your RSS, bookmarks, and links to

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

bill 44 debate an all-nighter.

The debate over Bill 44 is going late into the night at the Alberta Legislature. You can follow the debate online through video or by following the Twitter hashtags #ableg and #bill44.

So far, Opposition Liberal and NDP MLAs Laurie Blakeman, Kevin Taft, Brian Mason, Bridget Pastoor, Kent Hehr, David Swann, and Rachel Notley have spoken against Section 9 of Bill 44 (the controversial education opt-out), and Calgary-North Hill PC MLA Kyle Fawcett has spoken in support of the Bill as it is.

I have pledged to buy lunch for and write nice things about the first PC MLA to rise and speak against Bill 44 as it currently stands. Earlier today, Premier Ed Stelmach pledged to allow the PC caucus a free vote on tonight's/tomorrow morning's vote.

UPDATE: It's now 8:01am on Wednesday May 27 and after having been whipped in line for a month, no PC MLA took advantage of the last minute 'free vote' they were awarded on Bill 44 amendments. I keep my lunch money.

While they didn't succeed in getting their amendments to Bill 44 passed, congrats to opposition MLAs Laurie Blakeman, Kent Hehr, Rachel Notley, and Kevin Taft for their particularly well-spoken and colourful contributions to last night's/this morning's debates.

On another point, I wonder if any other provincial legislature watchers in Canada have a Twitter hashtag as active as #ableg?


Robert G. Harvie, Q.C. said...

Dave. So, what exactly is the problem? Parents are given a right to know what their children are being taught, and if it is something that offends their faith, they have a right to exempt their child.

Yes - very subversive.

The converse argument, really, is this:

"Parents - you do not have the right to raise your children according to your own religious principals. The state knows better than you what is best for your child."

Now - perhaps in many cases that would be true - but fundamentally, a parent should retain reasonable rights to determine how their children are raised.

In this debate, the topic is so often confined to hot button issues like birth control and homosexuality.. but, truly, what if the curriculum contained discussions on, oh, how not eating pork is a silly superstition, about how wearing a burqa is offensive to women. Are we still comfortable with telling parents they have no right to prevent such instruction to their child?

As long as we maintain a right to freedom of religion, that should include a right of a parent to prevent their faith from denigration by the state. It's that simple, really.

Now - on the other hand - if we want to remove freedom of religion and protection of religios affiliation as a prohibited ground of discrimination, I'm happy to consider that, personally.. but I'm sure those same persons who were happy Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn were hauled before human rights commissions

Anonymous said...

Roblaw misses the point entirely... again.

Parents already had the rights and protections of which you speak. The only thing this does, that the School Act did not already do, is give those folks who cannot work matters out with their school boards a way to use the Human Rights Kangaroo Courts against teachers, principals and said school boards.

The last thing we as a province should be doing is creating more work for the heavily flawed HRCs to justify themselves.

Since the school act provided all the rights you mentioned, logical people will ask why this legislation was created at all? The answer seems to be that the PC caucus could not bring themselves to just write into law protections for sexual minorities.

They are a bunch of reactionary homophobes and because of it, we the taxpayers will get to pay for another round of legal battles until such time as the Supreme Court of Canada again finds against the legislators of this province.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you're a lawyer, right Roblaw? Limited abilities to exempt kids from instruction already existed, but they were appropriately narrower, and relegated the resulting administrative issues to the school and school board - not the Human Rights Tribunals. Big difference, even with pending or promised bylaw clarifications. And expanding the issues to include religion is a big deal too, and will provide an expanded basis for all kinds of publicity-seeking, fundamentalist nutjobs to make their point...and make teachers' lives difficult. As has been noted, the "reasonable" parental rights you seek were already there.
Additionally, good (public) education should be able to include perspectives that oppose the practice of wearing burquas or the origin and critiques of various cultural/religious practices. As long as those perspectives are balanced and properly contextualized, that's what good education is. Your comments indicates a real misunderstanding about how curricula are developed and why. Giving parents the right not only to exempt their kids from this kind of education but also to launch human rights complaints because something touched on "religion" (whatever that means), is a recipe for silliness. If a parent really can't stomach exposing their kids to a variety of perspectives on geological history, human culture/religions, etc., take them out of public schools. Parents have that right and taxpayer dollars already support that right. Good education should expose a child to all kinds of views, including those a parent may not subscribe to. That's not a bad thing. Why is this prospect so scary?
You say "As long as we maintain a right to freedom of religion, that should include a right of a parent to prevent their faith from denigration by the state. It's that simple, really." If you really think exposing kids in public education to perspectives that might be different from or critical of the family's faith tradition is "denigration" I think you misunderstand the point of education. But even if we take it on your terms, parents already have the right to prevent such "denigration". They can, again, choose a charter school or even home school their kids. Not only does the state grant such a right, it subsidizes it.

Misses the point indeed.

Tiny Perfect Blog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

just blog walking. thanks!!

visit my blog at:
www.noermanshoot.blogspot.comI will give you software icrease traffic, FRee!!!

Robert G. Harvie, Q.C. said...

Well.. if I've accomplished nothing else, we have reached some agreement, apparently, that the Human Rights Tribunals are "Kangaroo Courts".

And regarding education of competing perspectives - you're preaching to the converted (no pun intended). I welcome some open discussion on the shortcomings of religion. I'm not arguing about that at all. I personally don't understand why a woman can't be a Priest in a Catholic Church or why there is a huge hubbub about gay marriage. But that isn't the point.

What I am noticing, is that there is this great willingness to pretend "religion" isn't a protected Charter right - such that the same people who cheered on the use of the Human Rights Commissions and our Courts to support the establishment of equality for gays and lesbians had best be careful about saying that when other Charter rights are sought to be protected, ie) freedom of religion, that we don't dismiss those Charter rights as rights of "publicity-seeking, fundamentalist nutjobs."

Charter Rights shouldn't be subject to question because their protection or implementaion is a "hardship" to the ATA. Cry me a freaking river.

The Gay Rights lobby has been pressing its agenda for some time, creating massive amounts of litigation and debate for years - and rightly so. Pardon me if I suggest that there needs to at least be as much respect for those who wish to protect the integrity of their faith.

Oh - and home schooling and charter schools are no answer to state sponsored interference with religious autonomy - any more than a "civil union" was an answer to gay marriage.

Anonymous said...

Funny how the spectre of the scary HRCs in a Bill 44 context are being raised by many of the same people who would have applauded their earlier work. It's not a la carte... you can't pick and choose the day when you support the powers of the HRC and when you can't.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:13: Of course you can pick and choose. Why can't you? If they have multiple functions and you agree with one and have concerns about another, that's the point of carefully crafting their legislative mandate. It's funny how in saying we can't pick and choose you seem to buy into the fundamentalist approach to scripture.... Or maybe that's a stretch, but the idea that we can't pick and choose is ludicrous.

Roblaw,I'd like to hear how having a properly vetted part of the curriculum that touches on religion, and helps students understand the various religious traditions - here or abroad - violates the fundamental freedom of conscience and religion, or the religious equality rights in s. 15. In invoking the Charter, you're assuming that these curriculum discussions would or even could interfere with these established rights. That's highly unlikely. Nobody has any absolute charter right not to have their religion brought up in class. Or perhaps you have some relevant case law. And in the event a classroom discussion was so off-the wall that it did, don't parents already have the courts to deal with defending these charter rights? It still doesn't need to be in this bill. I don't follow your argument from people have charter rights of freedom of religion to your support for this bill.

Nobody particularly cares about the ATA as an organization in this. Afterall, school boards didn't like this either. The primary issue is whether it's good for public education. It's not. A secondary issue is whether it's necessary to protect reasonably construed "rights" of parents to exempt kids from certain school content. It's not.

Newton said...


you are over looking the point and arguing a straw man position. Parents should be able to remove their children from lessons they don't like.

Parents should be able to create whole schools to teach their religious viewpoints.

Freedom of religion is already covered so arguing these things misses the point of those who disagree with bill 44.

This is about saying in our law - that a parent who feels a teacher has taught something to their child without fair warning - have suffered a HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION.

We have PUBLIC schools and we direct our teachers to discuss things like science, human biology, and politics. Of course students in school should be debating gay marriage or any other debate that our elected politicians are engaged in. This goes beyond protecting my rights to my personal beliefs - and says that a teacher has violated my HUMAN RIGHTS - simply by speaking a contrary viewpoint in the classroom - even if it is in the course of delivering mandated curriculum.

Should classroom discussion be guided by curriculum and educators - or the most sensitive zealot people with the most fringe belief structure. We do not need quasi judicial boards with unchecked power censoring our classrooms. Excuse the rest of us if we are concerned with this disturbing development.

Anonymous said...

FYI to everyone:

Third Reading of Bill 44 is currently scheduled to be this Monday evening (sometime after 7:30pm). It was actually meant to be Thursday (May 28), but got bumped back.