The recent passing of Bill 24 could have a serious impact on the operation, governance, accreditation, and funding of Christian schools. Consequently, the state of Christian education continues to be of serious concern in our circles. Parents want to be engaged and informed about what goes on at their schools. However, it appears the Alberta government wants to limit parental involvement especially in the area of sexuality and gender issues. Understandably this has caused some stress, if not confusion, about what this legislation really means for the future sustainability of our schools. What follows is an FAQ highlighting questions and concerns that our supporters may have. FAQ:
Couldn’t a Christian school declare that they have a policy that conforms to the requirements of Bill 24, without having to follow it? Or, could a Christian school have a Bill 24 policy that they “interpret and apply” from a Christian perspective?We don’t see how this is possible. First of all, if a Christian school declares they have a Bill 24 compliant policy, and post that policy to their public website (as required by the law), but have no intention of adhering to it, they not only break the 9th commandment, but sully the reputation of the Christian community as liars in the process. This is not what Jesus was suggesting when he instructed us to be wise as serpents. Furthermore, when we play out the scenario, it ends in disaster:
The coalition of schools tried to get an injunction. What does that mean, and where does it leave them?The coalition sought an injunction of Bill 24 and its requirements. The purpose of the injunction was to get a stay (which by default would also include the requirements under Bill 10). A stay is a legal term meaning that all requirements would be “stopped” until the case would get a proper hearing and ultimately a decision regarding Bill 24’s constitutionality. Unfortunately, the judge did not grant the coalition an injunction. This decision was disappointing but hardly unexpected. What follows are some highlights of the decision:
FAQs on Alberta’s Bill 24 saga
August 29, 2018 |
- What is Bill 24?
- What does Bill 24 actually require?
- Couldn’t a Christian school declare that they have a policy that conforms to the requirements of Bill 24, without having to follow it? Or, could a Christian school have a Bill 24 policy that they “interpret and apply” from a Christian perspective?
- What kind of “teeth” does Bill 24 have?
- Do you have more information on the legal implications of Bill 24?
- Why is this a problem?
- Why is there pressure on schools right now?
- Are schools really under that much pressure? Is the government not just “bluffing?”
- Who are the coalition of schools taking the province to court and what are they trying to accomplish?
- The coalition of schools tried to get an injunction. What does that mean, and where does it leave them?
- How long can we expect the case to take?
- What should schools be doing?
- What is ARPA Canada’s role now?
- What can I do?
- School implements a policy under s. 16.1 of the School Act (Bill 24), and proclaims to the Alberta government and Alberta public via their website that this policy is in force at their school
- A student at the school requests a GSA club or activity (e.g. flying rainbow flag for pride week, or having a drag queen come to the school to read I Am Jazz to the grade 1-4 kids)
- Principal must “immediately grant permission” for the requested club or event (s. 16.1(1)(a), which must be, verbatim, in the school policy as per s. 45.1(4)(b))
- Principal can either:
- comply (thus potentially compromising a Christian conviction on an ethical issue); or
- not comply (thus violating the policy)
- Assuming the principal does not comply, the student has the ability to go directly to the Minister of Education to ensure the initiative does happen.
- The Minister has the legal authority to “inquire into and report on any appeal, complaint or dispute” (s. 40(1))
- Depending on what that inquiry reveals, the Minister can “appoint a responsible adult to work with the requesting students in organizing the activity or to facilitate the establishment, and the ongoing operation, of the student organization at the school” (School Act, s. 16.1(4).)
- The “responsible adult” referred to in s. 16.1(4) is most likely a person who holds views contrary to the school on issues of sexual ethics and identity.
- It fails to recognize unconditional love that parents have for their children, whether they identify as LGBTQ+ or not (there are exceptions, but these are very few).
- It puts the issues of sexual identity, gender issues, and sexuality in general in the hands of the state instead of the home.
- It infringes on the rights of parents to educate their children according to their faith commitments.
- It violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it fails to balance parental rights with the governments objectives.
- It allows for an individual’s (even a very young child) demands to trump parental rights and responsibility.
- It insists on language that a school must adopt in their safe, caring, and inclusive school policies; this is concerning because policies define schools.
- It forces faith-based schools to adopt the ideas and worldview behind the government policies being proposed.
From what I understand then, Alberta Education has extended compliance deadlines a number of times after which they warn schools about potential loss of funding and accreditation. Are schools really under that much pressure? In other words, is the government not just “bluffing?”This is a great question. We obviously can’t provide a direct answer as to whether or not the Alberta government is bluffing. However, we can inform you that the government continues to use strong language consistently in their correspondence with schools regarding deadlines and compliant policies. On August 27 the Deputy Minister of Education informed schools that a 30-day deadline to post a compliant policy is being imposed, running from the date each individual school receives an email from Alberta Education providing detailed feedback on its policy. The Deputy Minister attached two template policies to assist schools. Many Christians have expressed concern that these templates still undermine religious freedom and the parents’ rights and responsibilities for their own children. The lawyers assert that government has failed to indicate any flexibility in enforcing the implementation of Bill 24’s policy requirements on faith-based schools. If a school fails to meet even a single requirement of Bill 24, the government will hold that school not to be in compliance, and subject to the threatened repercussions. The government has informed schools, in writing, that failure to comply may result in consequences that can include a Ministerial Order establishing a policy and requiring the posting of the policy, an investigation or inquiry, and/or funding implications. An investigation or inquiry may result in the suspension or cancellation of accreditation, or any other order the Minister deems appropriate. Furthermore, Alberta Education has gone public to repeat these warnings and threats. In an interview on August 30th, David Eggen said if law-abiding policies aren’t posted by early October, he will impose policies on reticent schools. If the schools fail to post the imposed policy, he’ll withdraw their public funding before the end of the school year. You can read more about that here. With repeated threats to accreditation and funding, schools will feel pressured to abandon their position defending the integrity of their faith-based programing and parent-child relationships. However, in a constitutional democracy such as Canada, it is critical that Canadians be willing to maintain principled stands against totalitarian governments and appeal to courts which are entrusted with the duty of upholding our free society.
I’ve heard about a coalition of schools taking the province to court. Who are they and what are they trying to accomplish?There are a number of Reformed schools that have joined a coalition of other schools, individuals, educational organizations, and parent organizations. This coalition has joined a court challenge against the minister of education led by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF). The purpose of the court challenge is to take a stand for: religious freedom, conscience rights, freedom of association, and parental rights. For more information on the original court challenge, check out this link.
- According to the court there were no constitutional issues at stake. Furthermore, the court stated that religious rights are not being infringed.
- The court also concluded that there is no threat for parental rights; the balance of convenience is on the side of the government.
- There has never been a case in the country where broad rights of children clash with parental rights.
- The court rejected affidavit evidence regarding harm to children and promotion of gender ideology.
- The court claimed it needed to hear from the children directly. This is an unusual finding for a court as vulnerable children should normally have the right to have parents speak on their behalf.
- Expert medical evidence was also rejected by the court (Experts warned that children are vulnerable re: gender issues).
- The court also cited the Trinity case and rejected the notion of infringement of religious rights.
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