A national group has officially filed a court challenge to Bill 24, just days before it was to be enacted across Alberta.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms officially filed the injunction on April 5th, saying that the Bill violates a parent’s right to know what their child is doing at school as well as conflicting with the rights of religious schools in establishing Gay-Straight Alliances.
John Carpay, the President of the Centre says around 26 religious schools are a part of this court challenge along with other concerned citizens.
“We have Jewish Schools, Sikh Schools, Christian Schools. There’s no public school that’s coming on board as a public school as such. Amongst the parties that are taking part in the court action are parents who have kids in public schools.”
Carpay believes that Bill 24 will keep secrets from all parents, not just abusive ones, and might put children in a more vulnerable state if their families are not aware of their actions at school.
The news of the court filing isn’t sitting well with Education Minister David Eggen who campaigned heavily to have the Bill set up late last year.
In a statement emailed to Discover Airdrie, Eggen voiced his frustration at the court challenge and John Carpay himself.
“Let me be crystal clear: Bill 24 is the law and it will be enforced. Our government is confident that the courts will uphold the right of every student to form a gay-straight alliance without fear of being outed. Schools that don’t follow the law will risk having their accreditation and funding stripped, period. Frankly, I’m disappointed to hear a close ally of Jason Kenney is trying to use the courts to overturn a law that protects gay kids. Our government understands that in today’s Alberta it matters how we treat each other – especially the most vulnerable. It’s time for Jason Kenney to come clean: Does he stand with the vast majority of Albertans who support GSAs or with his close ally John Carpay who want to take us backwards?”
That message is also being shared with many members of the Airdrie Pride Society. Executive Member Kayla Jessen says she’s upset with the religious schools involved with the injunction, pointing out that it shouldn’t be an ‘us versus them’ battle.
“You can’t be relying on your religious side of things and then also saying it goes against parental rights. It doesn’t matter what your religion is, your parental rights are the same.”
One of the points made in the court challenge is the fear that kids will be exposed to sexually explicit material and conversations in a GSA, but Jessen says that’s simply not true.
“I’ve attended lots of them, in fact, Airdrie Pride has one, a community GSA. We don’t do that stuff, we play things like Pictionary or we do Paint Nights or the kids just have time to hang out and be themselves. We really don’t discuss sexually explicit material.”
Carpay says he’s heard from the Education Minister and expects many will not agree with their challenge but says that part of his centre's message might not be getting through clearly.
“He (Minister Eggen) said it’s all about loving and supporting people and our response is ‘yah, exactly.’ That’s why you don’t want to keep parents in the dark about what’s going on with your own children at school.”
Jessen agrees that love and acceptance for all are key in GSA’s but at the end of the day, it shouldn’t primarily be about the parents.
“Our concern always first and foremost is the kids. We all feel very strongly about protecting very vulnerable children. They shouldn’t have to be part of this adult world yet. There should still be a modicum of innocence left to them.”
Jessen says schools that have not authorized GSA’s can join their Prysm group which you can find details on their Facebook page.
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