Wednesday, August 26th, 2009
This spring the province of Alberta finally got around to including gay rights into Alberta’s human rights law. Which is fine if really late to the party (like, 10 years late WHOA), but they also wrote into it a proviso that parents would be allowed to pull students from classes dealing with “controversial” topics such as evolution, sex, and — you guessed it — homosexuality. (Link here and here for some more commentary.) Where on the surface this appears merely eye-rolly, what this means practically is teachers will have to send out advance notice to all parents when they intend to cover those topics in class to allow parents the opportunity to pull their children, effectively quashing any “teachable moments” that might come up, bottling impromptu discussions about “religiously sensitive topics” that come up organically, and putting teachers’ (and students’) free speech under religious thumbs. All in the name of not ruffling a religious parent’s delicate sensibilities. So gay marriage is legal in Alberta and has been for some time, but Bill 44 would make such things illegal to talk about freely in a school setting without parental approval.
We may be a very conservative province, but there was a very loud UM WHUT that echoed across the internet, the LGBT communities, and the Teacher’s Association. Social media in particular was used to rally the troops and express dismay over the perversion of a bill that was supposed to secure gay rights. And, apparently someone was actually listening. Thank goodness.
Chris LaBossiere believes this is a direct response to the lobbying done by Albertans, including an active student-populated Facebook group boasting over 11,000 members and a Twitter debate with MLAs and the public that went into the wee hours of the morning and exposed the clumsy, fuzzy language of the bill.
It warms my heart that ordinary people can make a difference and maybe have made a difference here. Kids who still can’t vote spoke up, teachers spoke up, Albertans spoke up. It’s not a done deal at all and the bill still might pass as is, but at least we didn’t let it slide by without a fight. Even in Alberta this shit doesn’t fly.