Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Alberta's controversial Bill 44 proclaimed into law

Controversial Bill 44 now allows Alberta parents to pull their children out of any class that teaches about sexual orientation or religion. One step forward and one step back for the province of Alberta. As Xtra reported: "The Alberta government has proposed a new law that gay and lesbian leaders say will seriously hamper teachers' ability to raise the issue of sexual orientation in schools." reports
"It's a huge step backwards," says Melissa Luhtanen, president of the Calgary Outlink Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity. "It's really going to have an effect on Alberta, where issues are already hidden." The Alberta government's Bill 44 proposes to enshrine the words "sexual orientation" in the province's Human Rights Act, making it the last jurisdiction in the country to do so. But at the same time, the bill proposes to allow parents to opt their children out of any lessons that involve religion, sexual orientation and sexuality. "It seems they pandered to the rightwing by bringing in the parental rights clause," says Brendan Van Alstine, a social worker with the Pride Centre of Edmonton. Luhtanen, a human rights educator with the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, says that the parental rights clause opens up a huge can of worms, because the government is proposing to add it to the Human Rights Act. That means teachers and school administrators could be hauled before a human rights tribunal if they talk about what some consider taboo subjects without parents' permission. "Teachers won't be able to raise things on an impromptu basis and they won't be able to respond to kids who do, either," says Laurie Blakeman, a Liberal MLA from Edmonton who is leading her party's opposition to the bill.

Controversial Bill 44 proclaimed into law

CBC reports:
A controversial bill that allows Alberta parents to pull their children out of a class teaching sex, sexual orientation or religion has been passed into law. The bill comes into effect on Oct. 1, except for Section 9, which covers the parent opt-out clause. That section comes into force on Sept. 1, 2010 to give teachers and school boards enough time to institute formal procedures. Teachers were concerned the opt-out clause could leave them vulnerable to human rights complaints.

Bill 44, proclaimed on Monday, also includes:

An amendment that [finally] enshrines gay rights in Alberta's human rights code.
Removing free speech issues from the Human Rights Commission to be dealt with instead by hate laws in the Criminal Code.

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