Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Prentice's Bill 10: A Legislative Trojan Horse

There is little doubt that the Prentice government is getting its ass handed to it on the editorial pages of newspapers across Canada with respect to its hastily written Bill 10 counter response to Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman's Bill 202.

After looking at Bill 10 for a little while, I have come to the conclusion that this is far worse than being a simple ham-fisted counter-response to Bill 202, it is in fact a legislative Trojan Horse which will create enormous problems in Alberta for years to come ... at least until someone has the political spine to remove S11.1 and a couple of other clauses that are being slipped in.

Let's take a closer look at how Bill 10 will change Alberta's Bill of Rights, shall we?

Off the top, the government wishes to amend S1 of the act.  Before Bill 10, S1 reads as follows:
Recognition and declaration of rights and freedoms
1 It is hereby recognized and declared that in Alberta there exist

without discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion or sex, the following human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely:


(a) the right of the individual to liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law;

(b) the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law;

(c) freedom of religion;

(d) freedom of speech;
 
(e) freedom of assembly and association;

(f) freedom of the press.

After Bill 10, this will read as follows (emphasis added to changes):


Recognition and declaration of rights and freedoms
1 It is hereby recognized and declared that in Alberta there exist

without discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion, sex or sexual orientation the following human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely:


(a) the right of the individual to liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law;

(b) the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law;

(c) freedom of religion;

(d) freedom of speech;
 
(e) freedom of assembly and association;

(f) freedom of the press.
(g) the right of parents to make informed decisions respecting the education of their children. 
Please note, this is not the Alberta Human Rights Act, but the more foundational BILL OF RIGHTS. Section 2 of the Bill of Rights legislation clearly states that all other legislation in Alberta is assumed to operate in compliance with this act unless specifically stated to do so.  In other words, the Bill of Rights is one step removed from the Constitution in terms of legal hierarchy.

Whose bright idea was it to slide in clause (g)?  A clause like this will be used by the religious wingnut factions to object to everything from sex ed in schools to teaching evolution in biology classes.  This is a broadening of the effect of Section 11.1 of the Alberta Human Rights Act (a different piece of legislation that Minister Blackett amended in 2009.  This will open the door to lawsuits the likes of which we usually hear about coming out of Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma.

Section 11.1 exits the Alberta Human Rights Act, but it is far from dead and gone.  Instead it resurfaces in the Education Act as Section 58.

Section 58 exists under the rubric that there is some kind of "parental right" not to have their kids learn about sexuality.  This is nonsense.  It was nonsense in 2009, and it's nonsense today.  As a parent you have an obligation to your children to ensure that they are educated and literate.  There is no "right" to keep your children ignorant about their own bodies and sexualities.

By adding clause (g) to the Alberta Bill of Rights, the Prentice Government has not only reinforced S58, but in fact has opened up every aspect of Alberta's education system to being challenged by anyone who "objects" to some aspect of the curriculum for one reason or another.

It will also place a chill on teachers as a whole, who will find themselves basically threatened with rights challenges at every turn.

Bill 10 does precious little to protect LGBT youth in our schools, as its provisions for the creation of GSAs (and other student led bodies) is such that the obstacles to appeal are far greater than most students would have the ability to effectively enact an appeal of their school's decision, much less taking said appeal up to the level of the provincial courts.

Instead, it further reinforces the worst aspects of what the Stelmach government did to the Alberta Human Rights Act in 2009, and deepens a set of legislative clauses which are a sop to the narrow-mindedness of a small group of Albertans who seem to think that their religious beliefs have something to say about how children should learn.

Revisions:

3/12/14 11:24   Corrected link to Alberta Bill of Rights instead of Alberta Human Rights Act

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