That’s an odd way of using the word “choice”

I’ve long lamented the role of Catholic institutions in my government. Initially a persecuted minority, Catholic institutions that were established prior to Canadian confederation had their role cemented by law as part of the agreement to confederate. It was an agreement to legitimize what was, at the time, an organized–if widely discriminated against–minority. The problem, of course, is that these days education tends to be a matter of the theoretically secular government that runs the province… except that these Catholic institutions are happily trodding on secular law by shoehorning “conscience exemptions” into every damn bill that crosses the Legislature’s table. In other words, Catholic institutions don’t have to follow the law.

We’re long past the openly violent conflict between Protestants and Catholics, yet Catholics still enjoy their role in government. Or, I would say that, if not for my favourite advocacy group ever, Parents for Choice in Education. Apparently not satisfied with indoctrinating their children in both faith-based school and church (and in homeless shelters and hospitals–their reach is far), PCE, despite being called a “choice” organization, seems chiefly interested in making everyone else follow their choices.

I’ve written about PCE before. They were the ones who said the new Albertan government would “foist comprehensive sex education on schools next,” and meant it as a bad thing.

Just let that sink in for a moment. Comprehensive sex ed. The thing that reduces teen pregnancy. The thing that reduces the rate of abortion. The thing that reduces the rate of STI transmission. The thing that allows women to participate in the economy, drives up the GDP, drives down the cost of healthcare, stabilizes population growth, mitigates numerous health problems, reduces the rate of domestic and relationship violence, and perhaps most noticeably puts a dent in the poverty cycle.

Class mobility. Cheaper healthcare. Lower crime rate. Bad. 

I’m kind of okay with restricting parental rights here. Why are we allowing people to opt out of this again? Why are we engaging in some kind of bizarre cultural relativism when there are objectively bad consequences to the Catholic lobby’s belligerent dedication to ignorance?

I was inspired to check PCE out after my graduate buddy grapevine told me about a pair of University of Alberta doctors who shared their “expert” opinion with PCE on gender diversity and Education Minister David Eggen’s guidelines for schoolboards to include and facilitate trans youth. Doctor Blaine Achen is an anesthesiologist; Doctor Theodore Fenske, a cardiologist. Experts they may be–on pain management and heart disease, perhaps. Unsurprising that their “expert” opinion on gender diversity was riddled with false information and naked transphobia. They argued that gender dysphoria was comparable to anorexia and that the appropriate treatment was conversion therapy.

Been there, done that. It don’t work.

Pretty much anyone with actual expertise in the entirety of Alberta Health blasted the two “experts” for sharing false information and misleading the reader of their “expert” article to believe they were representative of the University of Alberta. The U of A promptly cracked down on the “experts” and demanded the letter state the opinion presented is that of Drs Achen and Fenske, and not of the U of A.

Their own employer told them to fuck off.

The PCE doesn’t care. Achen and Fenske’s bullshit is posted right alongside their “religious rights” rhetoric where they campaign for the “right” to opt their children out of any education on sex or gender.

Sara explained the concept of an ‘opt-in’ for parents, where no child should ever be engaged in study or counselling of a sexual nature (including matters regarding gender identity and expression) without explicit permission of the parents.

In other words, you want the opportunity to deny your children permission to learn about trans folk.

Makes us easier to hate when we remain a caricature, I guess.

Strange that the beginning of PCE’s meeting with the Education Minister acknowledges that the rate of attempted suicide in trans youth is severely exacerbated by antagonistic parents, and not even a full screen length later they’re lobbying for the right to pull their kids from gender education based on “the cultural beliefs of families that may be in opposition to the activities of clubs, counselling and Sexual Education, etc.”

May be in opposition. It’s so bizarre. The contradictions are staring you right in the face. They’re interested in giving options to parents, but only if those parents have cisgender children who are Catholic. The option that I want–compulsory education in all school boards, so fewer people become prejudiced–out of the question. How does a group of people operate with that amount of hypocrisy? They go on about protecting “ALL children” but fail to see the role of ignorance in the very transphobia they perpetrate, and how trans children are victims to it. They quote studies that do corroborate that parental support is necessary to preserve the resiliency of trans youth, but then don’t read the parts from the very same studies that state the support described is gender affirmation and not conversion therapy or abusive religious indoctrination.

Perhaps most frustrating of all–the NDP have held firm on their affirmation guidelines as well as Bill 7–but they have announced zero intentions of actually defanging the reactionary lobby. Opt-out is already in place for sex education. As long as it remains, the NDP are facilitating the miseducation of youth by allowing their parents to pull them from class for whatever bullshit excuse they can serve up.

There will still be a sizeable cohort of ignorant and readily violent people itching for an easy victim to lord over. That this will be a hate crime is small consolation to a corpse.



  1. says

    We need to do away with the idea of “parental rights”. You don’t own your kids. It’s not your “freedom of religion” if you’re deciding about the life of another person.
    Also, I taught comprehensive sex ed. It’s not like you’re telling kids something new. You’re desperately trying to put their misconceptions right and hammer some ideas about consent and “always use a condom, it protects against STIs”into their heads.

  2. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I’m kind of okay with restricting parental rights here.

    Don’t use that phrase. It’s wrong, and therefore misleading. No parent has a moral right to keep their children ignorant. Children are not the property of their parents. Parents are not owners. They are guardians, and if they are doing their responsibility poorly of raising their children, and violating the rights of the child, then the rest of us should step in to protect the rights of the child. Parents do not have the “right” to keep their children ignorant, and children do have the right to be educated. It should be a crime to purposefully keep one’s child ignorant in the way that many religious parents do.

    PS: And I see Giliell beat me to it.