Keeping parents in dark harms children

John Carpay

John Carpay

Why oppose a new Alberta law that is intended to prevent gay youth from being “outed” to their own parents? Because children, some as young as five, must be protected from being manipulated and exploited by political activists, in secret, without the knowledge and consent of parents.

Passed last month, An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances removes from Alberta parents their right to know what happens at Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) meetings: which political activists speak there; what sexual information is presented to children; what ideas and ideology are taught; and whether their own children are being bullied, pressured, intimidated or otherwise harmed while attending a GSA.

The media promotes GSAs as nothing but safe spaces for peer support and pizza. But the Alberta Teachers Association accurately describes GSAs as tools of activism and social change. GSA websites make it very clear that GSAs espouse particular beliefs about human sexuality and gender, which could be described as progressive, liberal, libertine, or secular. The GSA ideology is contrary to Islam, Christianity, Orthodox Judaism, and other religions that teach that sexual expression is appropriate only within a marriage between a man and a woman, that gender is binary, and that individuals should accept and embrace the reality of their biological sex.

Many non-religious parents share these views in part, and reject sexual expression outside of a serious and committed relationship between two adults. When parents object to GSAs, it is the GSA ideology they oppose, not pizza and peer support.

Bill 24 was introduced by the same government that created a GSA website, directed at K-12 children, with links to pornography and other inappropriate materials. Now that same government, through Bill 24, has removed from parents their right to know what is taught or presented in a GSA at school.

Bill 24 removes from parents their right to prevent their own children from attending clubs and activities that the parents consider harmful.

Parental rights in education, and the importance of the family, have been enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Canada is a State Party. The Alberta Bill of Rights, to which all other Alberta laws must conform, enshrines “the right of parents to make informed decisions respecting the education of their children.” Alberta’s Family Law Act legally empowers guardians (including natural parents) “to be informed of and consulted about and to make all significant decisions affecting the child.” Bill 24 runs counter to all four of these legal instruments.

Further, Bill 24 violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court of Canada has held that religious schools have a right to associate and teach around a common creed, and to serve only those families who choose to agree with the school’s mission and purpose. Governments must respect the religious character of religious schools.

Parents have a constitutional right and a legal duty to make decisions for their child, including moral upbringing.

The government claims this new law is necessary to prevent the “outing” of same-sex attracted children, as if parents are the enemy of their own children. But teachers and principals already exercise discretion in regard to what information is, or is not, shared with parents. Bill 24 removes this discretion from teachers and replaces it with a broad requirement to keep parents in the dark about what goes on at GSAs in their children’s schools. Further, a teacher or principal who suspects that a child is at risk of physical or emotional harm already has a legal obligation to inform the director of Child and Family Services. Bill 24 is therefore unnecessary.

Bill 24 ignores the fact that the vast majority of parents are caring and supportive, and love their children unconditionally. Bill 24 violates the rights of all parents to be fully informed about what is going on with their children at school, based on concerns that a very small number of parents may pose a risk to their own children. Bill 24 assumes that politicians and political activists are more trustworthy than parents, and should have access to children without the supervision of parents.

Accordingly, Bill 24 is an unjustifiable restriction on Charter-protected parental rights as established by the Supreme Court of Canada.

 

Calgary lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms which represents parents and schools who plan to challenge the constitutionality of Bill 24.

 

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