I received an email asking about my stance on Bill 2, Section 16 and I thought I would share my response here:
Thank you for your commitment to being informed and engaged on this election! Education is a particular passion of mine and the Alberta Party sees education as the cornerstone of all public policy because we know the more educated a society, the wealthier, healthier and more democratic a society will be. As you know, Bill 2 did not pass in the last session, but if I had been sitting in the Legislature and been asked to vote, I would have voted to support it.
I am happy to answer your question about Section 16:
16 All courses or programs of study offered and instructional materials used in a school must reflect the diverse nature and heritage of society in Alberta, 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 Party believes in respecting all Albertans, finding ways to include everyone in the discussion and moving forward in a progressive manner. As I read this section, I feel it aligns very well with our philosophy of promoting understanding, moving away from divisive or exclusionary politics and respecting others. We are a party that respects the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and fully supports the Human Rights Act.
I understand there has been quite a bit of controversy over this section, with concerns being raised by homeschooling parents about their right to teach their children according to their beliefs. When I was a trustee for Edmonton Public School Board, we had provisions for parents to exempt their children from the sexuality unit of the curriculum, in order to respect the diverse beliefs of parents. Most parents did not want their children exempted, but for some parents, this was a good compromise. I feel that if parents want to teach their children at home, but do not agree with Section 16--in others words, if they want to teach that Alberta is not diverse in nature and heritage, that children should not understand or respect others, that the Charter of Rights does not apply to all people equally and that the Human Rights Act is not a good piece of legislation--they are free to do so, but this should not be funded by public dollars. In other words, parents should remove their children entirely from the public system, accept that they will not receive any public funding to pursue this type of education and perhaps seek to obtain a diploma or certification from some other source.
Our public education system needs to uphold the laws and values of Canada and Alberta. It needs to promote understanding and respect, so that our children will be well prepared to live and contribute to a multi-cultural, multi-faith, integrated and respectful Canadian society.
I hope this makes my position clear, but if you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me at my office.
1) Part of the wording indicates that resources must reflect Alberta diversity and heritage. Given homeschoolers often do not use Alberta resources, this puts in place a situation where homeschoolers may be required to use resources they have determined will not meet the educational needs or choices of their family. I have math resources that have nothing in them about Alberta (or any place, for that matter). They technically don’t meet the criteria. It’s not about teaching that Alberta is not diverse—it’s about the fact that it says resources are to reflect Alberta diversity (which, if you’ll look at school texts, math, science and social studies texts definitely have well placed Alberta heritage and diversity items) and many resources do not. This ought to also be an issue for school teachers since there are a great many resources that are used that do not have Alberta content.
2) Nobody from the government has clearly explained what it means for courses and resources to “respect the AHRA”. That is a huge issue. One person from the government has said one thing; another person has said another. The interpretations vary widely. There is no clear consensus about what it means and could therefore potentially be used against homeschoolers and other schools: it was not just homeschoolers who were unhappy with the wording, but various private schools and Catholic school boards. Multi-faith society is exactly what they are hoping will remain and the wording puts in place an issue where they may not be able to express their faith.
There is, tied with this, the aspect that the AHRC is getting involved with resources schools use. Afaik, the Minister of Education has not said that the AHRC could not get involved with complaints about infractions on this section. An MLA brought this up during a question period and it was never addressed as being an impossibility that the AHRC could be involved if someone decided to report a parent for courses or resources the individual deemed inappropriate. (And really, with the AHRC, it is not up to the plaintiff to prove their side but the accused.)
3) Parents should remove their children entirely from the public system? First of all, parents who homeschool only have the choice of registering their children with a public board or an accredited (funded) private board. The funding is the same and is given by the government to all homeschoolers regardless of if they are registered with a public or private board. How is a family supposed to completely remove themselves from a publicly funded system when the government requires it?
First of all, as a homeschooling parent (and I think most would agree with me) I have no problem reflecting the diverse nature and heritage of society in Alberta, or promoting understanding and respect for others. I have a problem with the word “must”, and the PC (and AP?)’s implication that the Government has a greater right to choose for my children than I do.
Secondly, parents do not have the option to “remove their children entirely from the public system”. You can read the current regulations regarding homeschoolers in the School Act here: