“Unexpected legal implications”?

Well slap my side and roast me for dinner. Those two Baptist schools that are defying Bill 10, a law which compels all schools to form a Gay-Straight or Queer-Straight Alliance if the students request one, have given the Education Minister David Eggen some “unexpected legal implications.

For more than two months, Education Minister David Eggen has had a copy of a report and recommendations from inquirer Dan Scott, whom Eggen hired to investigate two Edmonton-area private schools.

“Yes, we are working with it, but it’s more complicated than we had originally foreseen,” Eggen said Wednesday.

Gee, you’re just now figuring out the finer details of entrusting a god damn cult with the public education of our children?! Fuck me, Minister, it’s a little early in 2017 to be awarding Understatement of the Year, but you are off to a smashing start!

In response, Eggen demanded a written promise from Coldwell to comply with laws unanimously approved by the legislature in 2015 that protect gender identity and expression as grounds for protection from discrimination, and compelling schools to help students organize a support group for LGBTQ students when they ask for one.

Eggen then received a letter from the school board’s lawyer that the minister won’t discuss.

The minister appointed Scott, a lawyer, to study the schools’ policies, documents and handbooks, and interview students, staff and families, to see if they are in line with the law.

Although he’s had the report in hand since December, Eggen would not divulge its conclusions or recommendations.

“It extends past just the individual case. The legal complexities that have come to light with this particular case have to have larger implications, so that’s about as far as I want to say about it right now,” Eggen said. “We’re working hard, because I want to make sure we get it right, and we want to make sure that we’re sending a safe and caring message right across every school.”

The “legal complexities” are thus:

  • Alberta’s federation with Canada back in the good ol’ days enshrined Catholic participation in government as a means of warding off Protestant persecution of Catholics.
  • We’ve since matured and developed a human rights code that says you can’t be a piece of shit to people just because they’re Queer.
  • Catholics continue to be pieces of shit to people just because they’re Queer.

Funnily enough, the United Nations awarded Canada a failing grade on separation of church and state, pointing to our numerous publicly funded religious schools.

In other words, David Eggen is wandering into a minefield that secular and queer Canadians have been pointing out for fracking decades: Our human rights codes and our tolerance of oppressive religious beliefs contradict each other, and at some point one has to be ruled subordinate to another.


Parents for Choice in Education endorse fundagelical jackass

In a move that I’m sure SHOCKED the regulars of my blag, Parents for Choice in Education (my all time favourite buddies and lobby group) signal boosted a hate preacher who despises the humanity of anyone who is not a straight, cis, white man!

Thus, under the heading, “Self-seen czar of the school system is out to mould a new Alberta,” Mr. Byfield accuses Mr. Eggen of “incomprehensible arrogance” and suggests he was being secretive about not stating the names of the people directly involved in the government’s extensive curriculum reform consultation.

“The minister gave three answers in a row,” Mr. Byfield wrote of a public forum on the review, clearly aiming for the impression Mr. Eggen intended to obfuscate. “First, there are ‘three hundred individuals’ involved in this revision. He could hardly name them all, and anyway some of them might not want to be publicly identified with it. Second, about a minute later: Actually ‘thousands’ of people were involved in it. Third, a minute after that, ‘thirty-two thousand’ people were involved in the revision, says the minister.” (I have taken the liberty of correcting a small typographical error in the original.)

Mr. Eggen may well have said something like this for the simple reason, without the Byfield spin, the numbers reflect the facts. To wit: About 300 people serve on the Alberta Education’s curriculum review panels. Most are teachers, although a significant number come from First Nations and other jurisdictions that use Alberta curriculum. In addition, approximately 32,000 Albertans have filled out the government’s curriculum, survey.

As for Mr. Eggen’s concern about the privacy of the individuals involved, this seems entirely justified on two counts: First, naming them is probably illegal under the privacy legislation the NDP inherited from the Conservative dynasty that ran Alberta for more than four decades. Second, participants in such a review risk being assailed by the unsleeping army of cross-border alt-right trolls that serves the same cause as Mr. Byfield.

Yes, apparently an anti-facts hate group clearly needs the support of an anti-facts hate preacher.



Jason Kenney scores points by accusing others of scoring points

Jason “I don’t get caught up in the details” Kenney seems to have a rather peculiar idea of how lawmaking works. In what must be the understatement of the decade, Education Minister David Eggen described Kenney’s ideas as “poor counsel” when Kenney suggested the government “compromise” with the Baptist schools defying Bill 10:

With two Edmonton-area religious schools saying they will defy provincial law that gives students the right to form a GSA, Eggen has not ruled out withholding provincial funding to the schools if they don’t comply with the legislation.

Kenney told reporters last week that Eggen was trying to score “political points,” and said the NDP government must balance provincial law against freedom of religion and freedom of association, and should work out a compromise with the Baptist school association that oversees the private schools.

But Eggen said it’s “poor counsel” from Kenney to suggest the government compromise in following the law.

“I find it curious that someone would counsel the government to compromise on what is a very clear law that was created to protect vulnerable children, to create a safe and caring environment for kids in schools,” Eggen told reporters at McDougall Centre, where the NDP cabinet was meeting Tuesday.

Ah yes, Jason Kenney would be the expert on scoring “political points.” Just say something to the effect of “taxes bad” while collecting an MPs salary deposited into your Totally Not a Campaign Fundraiser organization for a provincial party’s leadership election. Throw in some religious feardumb and tadaa! Instant points.

Maybe should run for the Albertan Conservatives. I’ve got their shtick figured out!


“No way under heaven,” says Baptist school after being told to respect Queer youth

Two Baptist schools which are financed by public money have decided they are not going to draft a Queer-inclusive policy for their students, despite it being required by Bill 7, Bill 10, and the Education Minister: (emphasis mine)

A Spruce Grove pastor who oversees two Christian private schools has accused Alberta’s education minister of wielding “dictatorial power” on the issue of LGBTQ rights, and says his board has no intention of complying with the government’s new policy.

I have a duty as a pastor to protect the flock of God,” said pastor Brian Coldwell, chair of the Independent Baptist Christian Education Society, which runs two schools in rural Parkland County with a total of 200 students. “And there is no way under heaven I’m going to allow gay activists to come in here and basically undermine our ministries and our religious freedoms or confuse and corrupt our children.”

Okay, so, essentially he’s complaining because the government, which pays his salary, is saying he has to treat Queer students with respect, as mandated by law, because his “flock” needs to be “protected” from “gay activists” who “confuse and corrupt” children. That’s a funny story coming from the same institution that routinely protects pedophiles and brainwashes them into thinking Queer people are broken, perverted, or otherwise dangerous.

Here’s an unsettling revelation: The St. Albert Catholic School Board has in writing that its “guiding policy” for Queer youth is to preach “chastity.”

(6) Imposes no special requirements/additional constraints  Calls students with same-sex attractions to a life of prayer, self-control, and chastity.  Procedure explicitly requires a staff advisor of any student group to impose the “Church’s definition of chastity as a basis for advising students within their work” (Procedure 4.6 & 4.7).  Requires any student group (such as a GSA or QSA) the additional burden to follow the “CCSSA Life Framework” (See Procedure 3 and Appendix 1).

These abusive mother fuckers are receiving my tax money to install god damn fucking conversion therapy-lite in god damn fucking public school. This religious indoctrination is precisely why the suicide rate is so high for Queer youth. And this shit is being taught in publicly funded schools!

David Swann, the leader of the Alberta Liberal Party (yes, they still exist) has also called on David Eggen to not only dismantle antagonistic school boards, but to ban conversion therapy.

“The legislation, supported by every provincial party, and the policies set forth by the government, were created to provide kids with the right to be who they are,” said Swann. “No organization, especially a school, should have the ability to take those rights away.”

“This is precisely the situation where LGBTQ protections are most needed,” Swann said in a statement. “There is an antagonistic school board and a strong bias against the LGBTQ community.”

Swann also called on Eggen to ban the practice of conversion therapy throughout the education system, after Coldwell said Christian counseling would be used to help LGBTQ students.

“This type of ‘therapy’ is widely opposed by experts in psychology, psychiatry and social work,” said Swann. “There is no place for it in Alberta’s schools.”

A petition has been started to lobby for the pulling of these school’s public funding. Please sign it here.

If schools that receive Albertan education funding dollars do not want to follow the law – they should not continue to be funded by the taxpayer, obviously. Tax money is not meant to subsidize spaces that make LGBTQ2+ students unsafe. Every student has a right to attend school in a safespace, Brian Coldwell has repeatedly demonstrated in public he is incapable of providing that – including during a bizarre interview on Ryan Jespersen’s radio show a few weeks ago where he discussed ex-gay “Pray the Gay away” conversion techniques which can cause irreversible psychological damage and amounts to child abuse.

Your signature and signal boosting are hugely appreciated. Call on the NDP to take action instead of grandstanding. I am sick to my stomach just thinking about “Christian counselling” and “chastity” advice.



August 30: Earlier version of this article said the two schools were Catholic. I’ll own up to it–I just assume every time religious dickheads do dickhead things in Alberta, it’s the god damn Catholics. In fairness, St. Albert’s Queer policy is still rancid.

Alberta to teach history properly — no more whitewashing

The NDP have announced they will be launching a program ahead of updates to the curriculum which involve teaching Albertan/Canadian history more accurately by including primary sources from First Nations–an uncomfortable move to genocide deniers, since the primary sources describe in great and meticulous detail the abuse perpetrated by European colonials as well as the racism that persists today. The program is to help teachers employ the new curriculum who may be uncomfortable admitting the history of brutal abuses of Indigenous populations by white Canadians.

Alberta teachers uneasy with tackling one of the darkest chapters of Canadian history in their classrooms are getting specific training.

Alberta will become the first province to establish a training regime for all of the province’s teachers to instruct in First Nations, Métis and Inuit history and perspectives.

“We know from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that there are some wounds that we need to heal,” Education Minister David Eggen said Wednesday. “We all live together with First Nations, Métis and Inuit culture. It’s important for all of us to have that education — turning some unfortunate past into a positive future for all.”

The provincial government will spend nearly $5.4 million during the next three years to provide professional development to 42,000 teachers, superintendents and other school staff. The move is to complement an ambitious reworking of Alberta’s school curriculum during the next six years, which Eggen said will include more First Nations, Métis and Inuit history and perspectives.

Staff from the centre will highlight information and resources from Alberta in particular, said director Ry Moran. It’s important students understand what transpired in their own backyard.

Alberta had 25 residential schools, the highest number of any province, Moran said. Many were concentrated in the Edmonton and Calgary areas.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission spent six years collecting stories and evidence of systemic assimilation, and physical, sexual and emotional abuse of indigenous people at the schools. The institutions were complicit in governments’ attempt to isolate indigenous children from their families and eliminate their culture and languages.

A truth and reconciliation centre survey found 30 per cent of Canadians haven’t heard of residential schools, Moran said.

Teachers need professional development and the right resources to empower them to tackle the difficult subject in age-appropriate ways, he said.

“Some teachers are a little reluctant to teach (human rights) issues. They don’t want to make mistakes, and they don’t want to offend anybody. And they also don’t really have a full sense of history themselves,” Moran said.

The public also needs to understand the abuse and neglect still affects survivors’ children and grandchildren today, Moran said.

Colour me impressed. This is the sort of substantive change I want to see. Hopefully it isn’t the first thing to go when Alberta carries on with its tradition of shooting itself in the foot every election.


The Education Minister’s open letter to Alberta students

Alberta’s Education Minister, David Eggen, posted an open letter to Alberta students, reiterating the Minister’s stated declaration that all school boards would be in compliance with Bill 10 and the gender-affirmation guidelines:

A few weeks from now, you and thousands of other Alberta students will head back to class. And when you do, you have rights that your schools will respect.

You have the right to feel safe and welcome at school.

You have the right to create a Gay-Straight Alliance or a Queer-Straight Alliance, and you have the right to name your clubs this way.

You have the right to use the washroom that is consistent with your gender identity. I want you to know that I will support each and every one of you. Together, we will make sure that the rights you have, and the policies your school boards have worked on, are being lived out in your schools.

As Minister of Education, I have been working with your school boards to make sure that our schools are welcoming and caring. All boards have created new policies to support LGBTQ students and they will now come to life in your schools.

In the coming weeks, Alberta Education will be promoting new resources to make sure that schools are safe and welcoming. You can also reach out directly to my staff, who can help you ensure your rights are being respected, at studentsupport@gov.ab.ca.

As we stand together, let’s embrace the differences in one another.

We will all be better for it in the long run.

And remember: I’m with you one hundred per cent.

David Eggen, Minister of Education

I have criticized the NDP for doing a lot of ideological grandstanding with very little in the way of substantive change. After months of lobbying from reactionary groups (most of which are Catholic affiliated), the Minister releases this statement once again holding firm that no school board, Catholic or public, will be permitted to antagonize Queer students. And it’s worth noting that while the reactionary groups complaining loudly are mostly religious, the local trans community has reported antagonism from public school board administrators as well.

I suppose moving forward I’ll wait a couple months to actually see it in action. I want to see consequences for administrators who bully Queer youth before I believe the NDP’s intentions to be genuine.

And yes, I’m still writing and meeting and speaking with my MLA to write Catholic conscience exemptions out of law. Somehow I doubt that particular agenda will get anywhere. But at least by going to the forums, asking the question in front of everyone, writing in, and making meetings with MLAs and supporting staff, they are aware that some of their voting base would really like to see all public services governed by… you know, public law.

Radical idea, I know.



Edit August 17: Fixed formatting glitch.