Tag Archives: Bill 44

Redford open to looking at Bill 44

I currently work in Art Education. Bill 44 has limited my ability to have open and honest conversations about contemporary art with students in my city. I also see the impact it has had on student’s maturity about contemporary art and about human sexuality in general. The ability to look at a piece of art that has tones of sexuality suddenly disables many students (esp. those in Junior High and High School) from taking it seriously and having a discussion about it’s merits as a piece of art work. They are diminished to giggles, embarrassed glances and in some a feeling of intense discomfort.

We are not supposed to talk about sexuality in polite society, in schools or in any professional atmosphere. We are creating a disadvantage for students by sheltering them many parts of life – literature, art, spirituality and of course science.

I cannot help but be heartened to hear Redford is open to discussing the section of Bill 44 that limits topics of human sexuality from Alberta’s education system. I am even more happy to hear her recognition that this section is a policy decision that does NOT support education or healthy development. It is a policy decision that harms Alberta’s youth and future generation.

Jason Markusoff, Calgary Herald:
Nancy writes:

In 2010, Bill 44 introduced a new section to the Human Rights Act that says teachers must get permission from parents to teach any subject matter that “deals primarily and explicitly with religion, sexuality or sexual orientation ” This section will make it more difficult to address issues of “sexual orientation” to all children in the classroom.
Teachers now feel like they have to avoid answering direct questions and are unable to properly support their students during classroom discussions. They are afraid of facing complaints and the consequences of them.
Given the high rates of gay teen suicide and our recognition for the need to tell them “It Gets Better” through a social media campaign, would you support scrapping that section of the Human Rights Act.

11:17

Alison Redford:
This is troublesome – and I know that there was real concern on this issue at the time – we will be taking a look at where we are – on this and on Section 3 – I wont preclude a discussion on this in the future
11:18

Jason Markusoff, Calgary Herald:
What do you mean by “troublesome”?
11:19

Alison Redford:
Sorry – wrong word – it concerns me that we could have kids in school who are not gettting the info and support that they need to have to live healthy lives – we can have policies that harm kids
11:20

Regardless of the outcome of the election – whenever that may be, I hope Bill 44 will come under a microscope and our leaders will not bow to outdated ideas based on archaic and damaging values.

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Our Truth and Effort

My first stab at The Meliorist’s opinion piece:

Political change in Alberta tends to reflect the open expanse of land and the spread too thin homesteads that dominate our prairie province. Pockets of individuals alienated and disaffected by the central government, afraid the brave the harsh climate they perceive. Coupled with groups of elites, people in small and shaky compartments, lifted away from the groundswell, and isolated from each other.

These past six months have seen the political landscape in Alberta shift. It may be small and it may be that only the most hard core of political pundits have followed the minutia of our political landscape, but this shift is cataclysmic in terms of Alberta politics.

With another provincial election still three years away, voters are already questioning what their elected officials are doing to reflect their voice, in the legislature and in policy decisions. Albertan’s expressing dissidence have evolved past letter writing and direct engagement with MLA’s through town halls and the like. The calls for change are progressively more vocal and more public.

Pieces of legislation, such as Bill 44, are debated in the streets, in cafés, on Twitter, blogs, and through mainstream media. Daily newspapers now have blogging added to their web content to allow their journalists to be ever more present in Alberta and ever more relevant, and these journalists are using that to express and reflect Albertan’s dissatisfaction with their governments.

The Wildrose Alliance Party, a party that few Albertans took note of a mere 4 months ago, now has over 11 000 members, a seat in the Legislature, and more media coverage for their leadership convention than the opposition parties could muster for town hall on health care.

The visible advantage the WAP has gained is in large part due to their vocal criticisms of the Stelmach-led government. While the current opposition seems content to rest on their laurels and travel the province speaking to small groups of disenchanted Albertan’s, the WAP was aggregating legions of Albertan’s frustrated with the lack of responsiveness by their MLA’s and channeling that desire to “send Ed a message.” The Glenmore by-election win was the first public clue that we are indeed in the midst of a fundamental shift in the way Albertan’s are participating in their provincial democracy.

Progressives are seeing this, and noting the advantage it presents. Split the right to strengthen the left is a historically oft-used tactic, though in Alberta, changes in government rarely go left but they do always go big.

Events like ChangeCamp, and other grassroots movements do what the WAP has done already. They bring people together and work to unite them around a common cause. For the WAP it was to “send Ed a message”, which its new leader, Danielle Smith, seems to have taken up as her personal war cry. For the progressives, the rallying cry seems still unclear.

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The needle and the damage done…

Last night, the third reading of Bill 44, proposed amendments to the Human Rights Act in Alberta, passed 35 votes to 7 against in a “free vote”.

The conversation last night over Twitter and Facebook was lively and engaging, with private citizens, on both sides of the spectrum and the issue, discussing the implications this has on our province and verbally expressing their political wishes to their elected representatives. Many excellent points were raised, both for and against but with a clear majority of people, highly educated people (despite Min. Blackett’s perceptions) rallying against this Bill and against the principle of school room censure. Besides just the fast paced world of electronic discussion, letters and petitions were tabled in the house yesterday before the vote got underway, all from clearly concerned citizens (myself and @davecournoyer included) by various members of the legislature, notably Laurie Blakeman who tabled 84 separate letters against Bill 44.

Alas, it seems that it was not enough to sway those 35 members of the legislative assembly who blindly toed the party line and voted in favor of this highly unpopular bill.

Although I am clearly against the principle of Bill 44 and believe it to be bad legislation, I am more appalled at the lack of consideration members took to their electorates thoughts and desires.

To the members of the legislative assembly, please take heed. “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than you have dreamt of in your philosophy”.

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My letter to my MLA re: Bill 44

Below is my letter recently sent to my MLA for Lethbridge West, Minister Greg Weadick and Minister Lindsay Blackett and Hon. Premier Ed Stelmach.

Minister G. Weadick,

I am writing this letter to express my concern over Bill 44, the proposed amendments to the Human Rights Act of Alberta. My concern lies with a specific section of Bill 44 as well as the overall intent and message of this Bill.

I would like to start by commending the Alberta Government for legislating sexual orientation rights within our Human Rights Act and I do see it as a substantial step forward in the right direction. This is an overdue response to the Supreme Court decision and reflects the values within Alberta’s diverse and inclusive culture.

There are several key reasons why, as a citizen of Alberta, I do not support this bill in its current format and urge you to exercise your free vote in this matter to vote against Bill 44 in its current state and work towards amending it to reflect the original intent of the change.

As a citizen of Alberta and a rather recent graduate of the Alberta Catholic School system, I see this as weak and redundant legislation, included to serve as a political statement regarding Alberta’s attitude towards ‘progressive cultural change’ but not a change in the way the Alberta School System operates.

Firstly, the inclusion of sexual orientation protection explicitly in the Alberta Human Rights Act is a reflection of a Supreme Court of Canada decision made eleven years ago. This inclusion, while in name is fundamental to reflecting the diverse and progressive culture within Alberta, does not significantly change the legal rights of same sex couples in Alberta. However, piggy backed on this inclusion is the enshrined right for parents to pick and chose the education their child receives through Alberta schools. The notable phrasing that allows parents to pull their children out of any education program, which threatens their religious beliefs, including mentions of sexual orientation in sexual education is a clear statement of the lack of belief that Alberta Government has in protecting and accepting the right of Albertan’s to exercise the sexual orientation of their choice. This is a significant cultural statement, one that has been picked up on by international and national media and quickly becoming an embarrassment and poor reflection of Alberta and people within.

Secondly, this legislation is entirely redundant, which has me wondering why the elected Government of Alberta is so interested in pursuing this bill, despite the vocal and populist opposition to it. As the people of Alberta, outside the Progressive Conservative caucus, do not look to be actively supporting this bill, it seems antithetical for the Alberta Government to insist on passing a bill with the purpose to “protect rights” already protected, and in a section of legislation which does very little in terms of change and progression.

While this bill only reflects the current rights of parents as enshrined within the School Act, it does perpetuate the negative stereotype of Alberta housing narrow-minded culture. Section Three of the Alberta School Act reads:  “All education programs offered and instructional materials used in schools must reflect the diverse nature and heritage of society in Alberta, promote understanding and respect for others and honour and respect the common values and beliefs of Albertans. For greater certainty, education programs and instructional materials referred to in subsection (1) must not promote or foster doctrines of racial or ethnic superiority or persecution, religious intolerance or persecution, social change through violent action or disobedience of laws.”

Notably, the principle of the statement is that the curriculum is to reflect the “diverse nature and heritage of society in Alberta, promote understanding and respect for others….” Parent’s already have the right to take their children from classes that they feel are inappropriate or explicitly go against their religious beliefs, and as you represent Lethbridge, a city which has a significant religious class, one that is diverse in its beliefs but similar in its faithful nature, this is a right exercised often. It is clear that parents are well aware of ability and their right to direct the nature of education their child receives. The inclusion of this right within the Human Rights Act only serves to reflect a negative and perpetuated culture of ignorance and exclusion, but gives nothing to parents that they do not already have. Indeed, it seems this Bill serves to regulate teachers and the school system further and allow less freedom of education, here in a province whose slogan is “Freedom to create, Spirit to achieve”.

Lastly, I am taken aback by the lack of consultation about this amendment, especially as many groups have come forward with strong opinions and those opinions do not seem to be taken into account. There has been a great deal of public discussion on this topic, free forums such as public media (newspapers, notably The Edmonton Journal) and web media such as blogs, twitter and Facebook have all hosted discussions on Bill 44 open to any and all. I personally have participated in several of these discussions and have been vocal about my personal opposition to Bill 44 and appreciate the level of engagement several of your caucus members have participated in.

I understand the third reading of Bill 44 will be happening this evening and I sincerely hope you take this letter into consideration when choosing your vote in this matter. I would be happy to engage you and any other elected member of the Legislature in this matter further and can be reached via e-mail at jenn.prosser@gmail.com. I have cc’ed both Min. L. Blackett and Hon. Premier E. Stelmach on this letter to express my concerns to a broad membership of the Progressive Conservative caucus. Thank you for your time and I look forward to a response.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Prosser

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Still that old Groucho Marx joke…

I tend to let myself live in a isolated community where Question Period is a common topic of conversation and policy amendments are debated on the level of “sexiness” the issue has potential to become. In that world, it is an easy belief that everyone is interested in political games, in outcomes, in process.

Although I can see through the crack in the door to where the outside world begins, I often chose to believe that their light is as bright as mine and that we cannot be alone in outrage and interest. Sometimes I am grossly disappointed, but sometimes I am blinded with surprise.

Bill 44. Many people *much brighter and more insightful then myself have written thoughts and potential consequences on the recently proposed amendment to the Human Rights Commission by the Alberta Government.

While I do strongly believe (and have been vocal about in other venues) that there is much to be concerned about with this amendment; such as the confusion within PC’s own caucus on how the amendment can be interpreted within the current Alberta curriculum, questions on individual school boards autonomy within notification of parents, the lack of support from the ATA and lastly, the underlying motivation for this less then popular amendment.

There are many people entering the discussion of this particular amendment. Not just people in the proverbial ‘circle’, but people who have little or nothing to gain themselves. People who don’t use, need, or care about political capitol, people who are for the most part left out of the decision making process.

Twitterverse has been active on this issue, with private citizens engaging MLA’s       (noticeably Lindsay Blackett and Dave Hancock themselves engaging back), bloggers being incredibly active in updating the public sphere on new ideas  (ie. daveberta) and discussion points and Facebook notes and groups springing up on a daily basis.

In all the blogs, in all the tweets, in all the bar room discussions I have had regarding political events I have been struck suddenly, taken aback and set to pause, truly appreciating what public engagement really is.

A anti Bill 44 Facebook group stopped me dead in my tracks. Using the same arguments that many others have, there is no radical reform ideas which caused me to pay attention. What caused me to pause and too appreciate is that this group was created by a student, a high school student, a high school student from my High School Alma Mater in fact. Declaring their indignation at a very certain and very distinct piece of legislation. With a mere 205 members (at this evenings count) this group is small in the social networking scheme but the discussion wall is active and there is real discourse there. Void of the usual political rhetoric and with no QP style name calling, this is what public engagement aspires to be.

Social media, with its networking sites and lists of interests you fill out to attract like minded people, can be good. Facebook reinvented the way marketers look at advertising, it stimulated the growth of the worst industry known to man, “cool hunters” and it suddenly did what forums and chat sites have been desiring to do for oh-so long. It created acceptable and use able web space. Regardless of the social site used, each and every one exists as firmly as any idea or thought or spoken sentence can.

This is the conversation needed to be brought in to truly understand where any community is on issues. Lets stop relaying on the tried and true methods, because they have been tried but are no longer true.

When Blackett tweeted “LindsayBlackett wants Albertans to know that their arte 30,000 inquiriese to the Human Right Commission each year and 900 are deemed to have merit.” this evening at app. 10:20 this evening, he was speaking to the people and likely he was responding to a the earlier tweets today about Bill 44. He was using twitter as a legitimate form of political discussion and policy process.

Despite the ban on twitter use in the house during QP by our long standing Speaker, this medium is being used to influence decisions, or at the very least openly question them.

Not to endorse cyber communication as the be all and end all of our public debate, but let us not close the door to it. All too many of the influential decision makers still scoff at these communication methods, and in their caged thinking they lose what they have been looking for.

Want youth to participate? Well, they are. Demanding that anyone participate on your playing Field only is not representation in any sense, it is arrogance and it is a sure sign of blind folded defeat.


*There are many who have provided me with much to think on in regards to this bill, notably Ken Chapman and Paula Simons.

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