Friday, May 29, 2009

... and That Makes 20!

Nation, notwithstanding my recently having been "outed" by the much-lamented AlbertaTory as former Seattle Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren, I was happy to receive in my inbox early yesterday the 20th incorrect guess as to my true identity.

For posterity's sake, as well as for a little amusement, I thought I'd post the 20 incorrect guesses here (keeping in mind that some of these guesses have been made by several people).

I am NOT (in no particular order):

  • Jonathan Denis
  • Troy Wason
  • A member of the Stelmach family
  • Judy Wilson
  • Larry Johnsrude
  • Kirk Schmidt
  • A member of the Herard family
  • Don O'Beirne (sp?)
  • A member of the Wojtaszek family
  • AlbertaTory
  • Dave Breakenridge
  • Satya Das
  • Robin Darsi
  • Tyler Shandro
  • Keith Marlowe
  • Daveberta (when do you people think Dave has time to write ANOTHER blog?!?)
  • Roger Holmes
  • Courtney Luimes (does Courtney know she's been mistaken for a 31 year-old man?)
  • Patrick Brown

... or, yesterday's guess...

  • Cory Morgan

Some are closer than others. And, for the record: *I* don't think Courtney Luimes is a 31 year-old man.

Keep 'em coming, Nation. ;)

- E.S.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Breaking Down 44: Part 2

Alright, Nation... we've talked about the first concept behind Bill 44, and it seems that the E.S. Nation is in general agreement with my take that:


It's 2009, and most of us have joined the vast majority of western liberal democracies in that belief.

The second, and more controversial of the concepts, is what we'll talk about today.


Now, this one is far more touchy than the first. A simpler solution to this conundrum would have been to present these 2 concepts in 2 different bills, however it's no secret that there is a very vocal minority in the PC Caucus, and in the province at large, that wanted absolutely NO space between Concept 1 and Concept 2: As soon as 1 was law, the 2nd had to be also.

Let's break this concept down into workable sub-concepts...

SUB-CONCEPT 1: Parents have the right to control the education of their children.

I say, "true". Before public education, the parental role in education was inextricable from the education itself: Mother and Father taught the child what s/he needed to know to survive in the world. If the child decided (or, sometimes, it was determined FOR the child) to go into a field that neither parent could offer an education in, the child would be "apprenticed" to someone who COULD provide that education. At any rate, the parent's right to control the education of their child was absolute.

Since the dawn of public education, this right has seen its scope limited. As class sizes grew, the parent's ability to sit down and discuss their own child's needs with the teacher was reduced; likewise with their ability to, in most cases, influence the curriculum - when your 4 children were in an 11-child, one-room school-house, your discussions with the teacher as to what was and was not appropriate for your children carried serious weight. When your child is one in a class of 25, in a school of 600, with regimented curriculum and standardized province-wide tests, then the teacher is somewhat more limited in how much they can change the lesson plan to accommodate the beliefs of your family.

Ultimately, the parent still has the choice to home school their child, enroll him/her in the public school system, enroll in a private, charter, or faith-based school... however, the lessons and core curriculum which the student is taught are determined by experts in order to ensure that all high school graduates, for example, can be assumed to have met the same basic threshold of applied learning.

So, while the parent can no longer control, to the same degree, what is taught in the public school classroom, it is ultimately their right to determine whether or not their child even ENTERS that classroom, or goes to a school or system more in keeping with their family's values and beliefs. Therefore, sub-concept 1 is, to my mind, truthful: Parents do have the right to control the education of their children.

SUB-CONCEPT 2: Children have the right to a full and balanced education.

We, as a society, have determined this to be true through our actions. The creation and public funding of an educational system which permits all children to attend, free of charge, is one of the greatest steps that any civilization can take to ensure its posterity. We in this country, as in many others, have created a system and embedded within that system a curriculum and series of standardized tests to ensure that the curriculum is being adhered to.

That curriculum is set by a central body, in our case Alberta Education, with the input of many highly-educated experts and after consultation with school councils - made up of teachers and parents - from across the province. The curriculum that the students are taught is intended to give them a foundation in logic, problem solving, analytical thought, critical thinking, and the ability to retain and use a base set of facts on a variety of subjects, from Language Arts and Mathematics to Science, History, Humanities, and Fine Arts.

The goal of this curriculum is to give students a well-rounded education. That is to say, to educate them as fully as possible in a group setting, in a number of different subjects as determined by the aforementioned experts and school councils.

Teaching a student is, at its core, simple: Introduce knowledge of which the student is not previously aware, discuss that knowledge, prove it to be factual through critical thinking, and test the student to determine if that knowledge was retained. Of course, there's MUCH more to being a teacher than just following those steps, but at its core, education boils down to those 4 steps. The KEY to the process, though, is the FIRST step: Introduce knowledge of which the student is not previously aware. Challenge the student's ignorance or pre-conception. Where we run into difficulty, and where our 2 sub-concepts collide, is at this point: Sometimes, the knowledge, or what we as a society have deemed "facts", bump up against what the student has been taught at home and brings into the classroom with them as a pre-conceived notion.

This is the system that we have created... a system that attempts to impart a societally-agreed-upon series of facts in a myriad of subjects, along with the ability to reason, critically think, and solve problems. Using this system as our barometer, then, we can determine that we do, in fact, believe sub-concept 2 to be correct: Children do have the right to a full and balanced education.


There's the rub... WHO decides what constitutes a "full and balanced education"? Society as a whole. The same society that, once, accepted that some people could be the legal property of others. Or that the Earth was the centre of the Solar System. Or, more recently, that a "person" was defined as "a human being who is not an Indian". These are all ideas that were taught as facts in school, once. Clearly, society's values, the values and beliefs and accepted facts of the majority, are not always right or in keeping with what a child is taught at home.

The rights of parents superseding the rights of their children is always a sticky subject... we accept as a society, for example, that the right of a mother to have control over her own body supersedes any rights that her unborn child (or "fetus", depending on your social slant) may have. But DO we? There are examples of alcoholic mothers who have the babies taken by the province immediately upon birth, for the welfare of the child. Recently, a judgement in Manitoba suggested that teaching racism at home was a form of child abuse. Parents have the right to determine what medical care their child receives - unless the child's life is in danger, in which case doctors are empowered to take whatever steps are necessary - even if those steps are against the faith and wishes of the child's family - to save his or her life. A family that refuses to allow a life-saving procedure on religious grounds can be charged with abuse, or negligence.

So, is the act of a parent denying their child access to the full Alberta Education curriculum a case of "child abuse"? Or is it simply a case of the parent exercising their right to determine what is best for their child?

The obvious elephant in the room in this whole debate is religion. As I've stated before, I'm not a person of faith. However, I *did* attend Catholic school, and in Calgary, that means taking a course entitled "Religious Studies" each and every year. In elementary school, this course was essentially catechism: "Here's what we believe. You should believe it, too". Most of the students were Catholics, from Catholic families. It wasn't a big deal. By the time I got to high school, however, the message had changed drastically... it became "Here's what other people believe, and here's why". There was no indoctrination, no condemnation of different beliefs, it was just... knowledge. I was learning about the faiths of my neighbours and friends - they weren't being condemned or promoted, they were simply being discussed. As a result of that class, I grew in my understanding of others, how they thought, and why they thought that way. It was incredibly useful, and I would be a far poorer person for not having taken that course.

My parents *could* have pulled me from that course. They had the option, just as they had the option of pulling me from class when the curriculum called for the teaching of Human Sexuality. They didn't - in fact, in my 12 years of school, less than 5 students EVER left the class because of their parents' wishes regarding Sex Ed (and this was in the Catholic system, remember).

I *can*, however, see the side of parents who feel that their 8 or 9 year-old, who presumably they know better than anyone, is not ready for a discussion on human sexuality (the curriculum, I believe, starts discussing human reproduction in 3rd grade now). Those parents should, and do, have a recourse to pull their child out of the class when this discussion is happening. It's one thing to pull your 17 year-old out of Health class because a subject will be discussed that, statistically, he's probably already DOING, but quite another to be told by society that "your 9 year-old daughter NEEDS to know what a penis is for - and if you or your pastor isn't comfortable with that, then too bad". Dinner table conversations can clarify your position to your children, they can put today's school lesson in the context of your faith, but they can't erase the information that you feel your child wasn't ready to hear.

Discussion about religion is different, though. If a child will, as result of a simple classroom discussion, lose or act against their faith - then clearly the faith isn't being discussed and cultivated at home. Surely, faith that goes untested is not as strong as that which is tempered by being challenged. Remember the story of Job? (Hint: Check your Bible)

And let's not lose sight, by the way, of the fact that discussion ABOUT religion isn't even covered by Bill 44 - it's Religious Instruction, specifically. The classes I took in elementary - "write down 5 reasons you love Jesus" apply. The classes I took in high school - "what does it mean when someone says they are 'keeping kosher'?" - don't apply. And, as far as I know, they don't even teach those classes in the public system anyhow. Certainly not as mandatory courses, the way they are in the Catholic system.

My personal experiences and opinions notwithstanding, though, we as a society have a decision to make: Do we, as a society, get to decide what's best for kids regarding their education? Or do their parents? We've passed laws that say spanking a child is abuse. Whether or not the parent feels the child needs to be spanked is irrelevant: We have decided that a parent who strikes their child is wrong, and committing a crime.

Are we prepared, as a society, to say that a parent who causes their child to be excluded from a classroom discussion on human sexuality or explicitly religious instruction (catechism) that goes against the parent's, and presumably the child's, values system is similarly abusing their child?

If we accept that the child has a right to a full and balanced education, as I posited above, then it is indisputable that the child's rights are being denied in this regard. The fundamental question we have to ask, then, is this: Whose rights come first? The rights of parents, or the rights of the student?

They BOTH have rights. When those rights collide - as they do on this issue - which rights are we willing to sacrifice in deference to the other?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Power to the People!

Nation, I was up through much (but CERTAINLY not all) of last night's debate on Bill 44. A lot of good points were made in opposition, some good points were made in favour, and at the end of the night (or, if you prefer, in the early part of the morning) the Bill was passed through the Committee of the Whole.

Something... unexpected... happened during this all-night debate, however.

The people - severely normal Albertans - Martha and Henry - started talking about their thoughts on the Bill, through Twitter.

And the MLA's were RESPONDING.

Nation: This is, I believe, a harbinger of a brave new world in governance. As was pointed out by a Tweeter last night, when else in history has a citizen been able to speak to his elected representative, DURING debate on a Bill, after midnight in order to express his opinion?

Log-in to Twitter, and do a search for #ABLeg and #Bill44 - see for yourself the kind of discussion that was going on, well past 4 in the morning. Citizens, journalists (who are ALSO citizens, by the way), and MLA's alike - there was a real, honest-to-goodness dialogue going on about the Bill. I've got to believe that this will not be the last time we can expect this sort of thing. As the technology has advanced to the point now that we can watch our representatives debating a Bill at 1:30 am, and send them messages containing our opinions, and they can respond in kind - we are on the cusp of something extraordinary.

From this, good and transparent, truly representative and accessible democracy springs forth.

It's an exciting time to be an engaged citizen in this province.

(In particular, big kudos to the Twitter contributions of @taudette, @AllieW, @davecournoyer, @sirthinks, @DebraWard, @chrislabossiere, @Imparo, @tinyperfectblog, @KenChapman46, @lisa_mack, @brittanykustra, @BreakenNews and @Paulatics, and MLA's @RAndersonMLA, @KyleMLA, @JonoMLA, @GriffMLA, and @LindsayBlackett. You're all pioneers.)

For other perspectives on last night's events, check out Ken Chapman and Tiny Perfect Blog, as well as Capital Notebook.

For the Hansard transcript of last night's debate, click here.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Stories of My Demise...

... have been greatly exaggerated, Nation.

I've been ridiculously busy over the past 2 weeks, however there have been a great many developments on the political and local scene that I wanted to touch on. Also, there will be more discussion on Bill 44 in the next few weeks, so stay tuned for that.

The quick hits, in no particular order:

Ron Stevens resigns as MLA and Deputy Premier, is named to the Bench: Stevens is a good and decent man who will do very well as a Justice. His absence in the Tory caucus leaves a void that will take more than a by-election or cabinet shuffle to fill. I'm hearing about a minor cabinet shuffle and by-election in the fall. I'm betting that there won't be anyone named to the Deputy Premier's post - the posting for Stevens was an olive branch to the Calgary caucus, and the pickings for a new Deputy Premier from Calgary are somewhat slim at this point, without over-loading Minister Redford's plate.

Alberta's Legislative Assembly starts to get a little stir-crazy: The questions and answers in the Legislative Question Period are getting snarky, the preambles are getting out of hand, and the partisan rhetoric is reaching a fevered pitch. Could it be any more obvious that it's time for a summer recess?

The Enlightened Savage is the 7th most popular blogger in Alberta. Wait until they see me in the swim-suit competition. ;)

Harper's Tories launch attack ads on Iggy: Are the statements true? Sure... but trying to paint them as "information pieces" instead of attack ads is ridiculous - Kinsella would be proud of these ads if the shoe was on the other foot, the Tories should just stand by them.

Alberta PC Policy Convention comes to Calgary this week-end: The early line says that a lot of Tories are going to get together, discuss important issues related to health and the environment, vote on policy statements, make recommendations to the party, and those recommendations will likely be ignored by Caucus. At least the networking possibilities will be useful.

Calgary police officer shoots and kills an armed suspect: Not hearing a lot from the "usual suspects" about police conduct - could it be because they're busy blowing the horn to have Tasers taken out of service? A question for these critics - if you take all the Tasers away from the police, won't you see the "officers shoots and kills suspect" headline a LOT more often?

Doug Griffiths rumoured to be crossing the floor on Twitter - this was shocking news to a lot of insiders, especially to Griff himself. From Twitter, on May 21st: "Ha ha. Wow! I would like to announce that I am NOT crossing any floor."

Sabre-rattling on Parliament Hill regarding Employment Insurance: Harper: "Don't push me, Iggy." Iggy: "Don't make me pull the plug, Steve-o". Layton: "Does anyone remember who I am?"

Victoria Day Long Week-end sees a more orderly camping week-end than in past years: Fish & Wildlife Officers, Forest Officers, Conservation Officers, Alberta Parks staff, Sheriffs and RCMP are to all be commended. I was camping myself that week-end, and it was an absolute pleasure compared to previous years.

Harper announces $100M for South-East Ring Road in Calgary: Great, Stephen. Thanks. What we REALLY need is the promise that you have a rubber stamp waiting in Ottawa to approve the agreement between the Tsuu T'ina Nation and the province of Alberta regarding the South-WEST Ring Road. You know, Calgary South-West? You should talk to their Member of Parliament about the long-overdue road, I'm sure he gets a lot of letters about it. This road needed to be built 10 years ago, not 15 years from now.

The Flames fire Mike Keenan: Good. I like it when the Flames do well - as an Oilers fan, it ensures that MY team will keep trying to do well, instead of treading water. Keenan had to go. Flames, take it from an Oilers fan: You could do a LOT worse than former Oilers coach Craig MacTavish. He's a good coach, but a new voice was needed up North after the better part of a decade.

Star Trek was a phenomenal movie. That is all. See it.

Nation, I WILL be updating more frequently - keep coming back for more. If I've forgotten anything, please mention it in the comments and I'll get on it. :)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Breaking Down 44: Part 1

No, Nation, despite the promising title, this is NOT an evisceration of Chris Pronger - who no longer wears number 44 anyhow. Although, that DOES give me an idea for another post later...

No, this is the first of a 2-part series of posts about Bill 44. Or, rather, a launching point for a community discussion about Bill 44.

I know a lot of my readers are more socially conservative than myself. I also know, though, that I get a lot of traffic from moderates, such as myself. I'm counting on both of those statements to be true.

I'm going to, in the next 2 days, post my thoughts on the 2 big issues revolving around Bill 44. What I need YOU to do, is comment. Agree with me, disagree with me, agree and disagree with each other. I want an honest-to-goodness discussion going on in the "comments" section of these posts. Point/counterpoint, parry/thrust, jab/duck (unless you're Ricky Hatton)... we've seen the Bloggers go completely bonkers over the past little while in defence of this bill, or in their attacks on it. I want to see the *discussion* of the differing viewpoints - both from the Bloggers who come here, and the readers who care to venture an opinion. All I ask is that when we DO disagree - which I don't think is all that unlikely - that we remember to be respectful of the beliefs and ideas of others.

It's entirely possible that we all agree on the basics of the discussion, and it's just the fine details of the Bill that have everyone so worried. Let's find out.

In order to "break it down", we'll deal with the 2 big newsworthy sections of the Bill one at a time...


Pretty straight forward. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled on this a decade ago... the argument I've heard most often made in opposition to the statement above is that "it's not discrimination, it's a consequence of a choice that the person made - namely, the choice to engage in the homosexual lifestyle".

I don't think I could disagree with that statement a whole lot more if I tried.

First of all, it assumes that the idea of homosexuality as a "choice" is factual. I'm not exactly on the cutting edge of study on this subject, but let's assume, for the moment, that it IS a choice... so is religion. If religion is a choice, and it's a violation of human rights to discriminate against people for choosing to have certain beliefs, morals and thoughts... then why is it okay to discriminate against OTHER people who choose to have certain beliefs, morals and thoughts?

If, on the other hand, sexual orientation is a function of genetics... well, so is race. If race is a function of genetics, and it's a violation of human rights to discriminate against people based on the genetics with which they were born... then why is it okay to discriminate against OTHER people based on the genetics with which they were born?

To whit: Choice, or genetics, there is precedent to suggest that discrimination based on sexual orientation is flat-out wrong. A fact that is increasingly being accepted through much of the western world.

Look, Nation... I don't know who many of you are. Some, I do - even if you don't know I am who I am. I don't know what you do behind closed doors, and vice versa. But I think something we should ALL be able to agree on is that I should NOT know what goes on between you and your partner(s) of choice (if any). I have the right to ask you, and you have the right to refuse to answer, but I have no right to know. And if I *do* somehow find out what goes on between you and your partner(s) of choice (if any), I should have a right to form a personal opinion about that - but not to discriminate against you on that basis. You can't hire someone on the basis of their being a woman (genetics), virgin (choice), white-skinned (genetics), or a Jehovah's Witness (choice)... why should you be allowed to discriminate against them based on who they fall in love with, or the gender of the consenting adult(s) they spend their time with?

I would submit, Nation, that you should NOT be allowed to discriminate against them on that basis. I can't fire a girl from her job for sleeping around with men. Why should I be able to fire her for sleeping with women?

Answer: I shouldn't.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Late to the Bill 44 Party - But I Brought Donuts!

Nation, there i just about nowhere left on this Earth I can go without friends, relatives, or acquaintances tweeting/calling/IM-ing/sending smoke signals to me asking me what I think about Bill 44.

"You're a politically interested person", they say. "What do you think?"

No pressure. It's not like this is a controversial issue or anything.

[deep breaths]

Okay, this is one of the rare circumstances where you get to learn something about The Enlightened Savage, in the interest of full disclosure, before we dive in. My body of work doesn't paint a full enough picture of my own situation to plow forward unclarified.

  • I am not a parent of a school-aged child. Or of any child whatsoever. Yet. A fact which the MOES (Mother Of Enlightened Savage) frequently mentions at Sunday dinner.
  • I am not someone who would consider themselves a person of faith. I just don't hear the call. I'm sure if I run for office someday this statement will be used against me as proof of some fatal moral flaw. Regardless of that fact, though, I'd rather be condemned for who I *am* than pretend to be a pious man for the sake of political appearances (the true, Biblical definition of a hypocrite). I have nothing but respect for people of ALL faiths: Their paths are their own, and they are absolutely entitled to follow them. In a lot of ways, I envy them their certainty.
  • I attended 12 years of Catholic school in Alberta.
  • I have several close friends who work as teachers in Alberta's public schools.
  • I'm about as socially progressive a person as you'll find, anywhere, in this province. I believe whole-heartedly in no-holds-barred religious tolerance.
Now, Bill 44 is an attempt, described by many as ham-handed, to update Alberta's Human Rights law. The most notable change is the inclusion of "sexual orientation" as a basis upon which discrimination is unlawful.

For example, the Bill would change THIS:

WHEREAS it is recognized in Alberta as a fundamental principle and as a matter of public policy that all persons are equal in: dignity, rights and responsibilities without regard to race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income or family status;

to THIS:

WHEREAS it is recognized in Alberta as a fundamental principle and as a matter of public policy that all persons are equal in: dignity, rights and responsibilities without regard to race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation;

Likewise, it changes section 30 as follows:

30 (g) “marital status” means the status of being married, single,widowed, divorced, separated or living with a person of the opposite sex in a conjugal relationship outside marriage;

becomes THIS:

30 (g) “marital status” means the status of being married, single,widowed, divorced, separated or living with a person in a conjugal relationship outside marriage;

This is a long-overdue series of changes, which keep us in step with the rest of the country and, might I add, the Federal Government's laws in the same vein. Everyone has their own opinion on this, to which they're entitled, but from MY point of view, this is a good thing.

With these changes, though, comes a new wrinkle - and, sadly, the one that's been getting all of the attention - The addition to the Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act of the following:

9 The following is added after section 11:

Notice to parent or guardian

11.1(1) A board as defined in the School Act shall provide notice to a parent or guardian of a student where courses of study, educational programs or instructional materials, or instruction or exercises, prescribed under that Act include subject-matter that deals explicitly with religion, sexuality or sexual orientation.
(2) Where a teacher or other person providing instruction, teaching a course of study or educational program or using the instructional materials referred to in subsection (1) receives a written request signed by a parent or guardian of a student that the student be excluded from the instruction, course of study, educational program or use of instructional materials, the teacher or other person shall in accordance with the request of the parent or guardian and without academic penalty permit the
(a) to leave the classroom or place where the instruction, course of study or educational program is taking place or the instructional materials are being used for the duration of the part of the instruction, course of study or educational program, or the use of the instructional materials, that includes the subject-matter referred to in
subsection (1), or
(b) to remain in the classroom or place without taking part in the instruction, course of study or educational program or using the instructional materials.

"My GOD!" screams the liberal latte left: "They're trying to turn us into Alabama!"

The irony of this kind of statement isn't lost on me, Nation - and neither should it be lost on you. This is an illustration of the last, great allowable discrimination: Discrimination against Evangelical Christians.

We saw it when Stockwell Day led the Canadian Alliance into a Federal election, and we see it consistently on such late-night E.S. staples like the Daily Show and the Colbert Report: It's okay to make fun of the religious beliefs of Evangelical Christians. After all, they take themselves so SERIOUSLY. Some of them actually believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. I mean, haven't you seen Religulous?

So, when you hear about the section of Bill 44 that enshrines parental rights into Human Rights law, it suddenly becomes open season on Evangelicals and their "silly, backwards beliefs". The attackers? The same highly evolved, empathetic liberal progressives who would in the very same breath scream obscenities at anyone daring to insult Jewish or Muslim beliefs. It's a textbook case of hypocrisy on the part of the opposition, and Orwellian in its undertones: All faiths are equal, worthy of respect and tolerance and protected from ridicule as far as the liberal masses are concerned, but some faiths are more equal, respectable, tolerable and protected than others.

So, let's cut through the garbage about evolution (the Premier's interpretation notwithstanding, evolution does NOT deal with an "explicitly religious" issue), fear-mongering and hypocrisy, and get to the heart of the matter: Is the inclusion of this passage a deal-breaker for the legislation?

The bottom line question is this: Do the rights of the parents to manage their child's education over-rule the rights of the child to a full and inclusive education? Who determines what should be included in a full education for a child - the experts who punch a clock for the government? Or the parents of the child, who assume full responsibility for the child's physical, mental and spiritual well-being from birth to... well, for as long as they can, in many cases?

A child who is raised without the opportunity to grow and question beyond the understanding of his/her parents will lack the necessary skills and understanding to function in a modern world. I attended Catholic school, as I mentioned above, and all of 3 kids were opted out of sexual education class by their parents in my 12 years, and none ever opted out of a religious studies class that discussed other faiths – and this was in a CATHOLIC school. I don’t think those numbers would radically balloon if the ability to exempt students was written into law, however the point is a good one that some pious parent looking to make a point could potentially just wait until a teacher mentioned Ramadan or Yom Kippur without a letter home first, and then file a Human Rights complaint against the teacher to “send a message”.

(A way around this could be borrowed from Alberta police forces, who have to, under law, post signs that photo radar is being used in the area. Their solution? Post permanent signs EVERYWHERE in the city, and then no matter where the photo radar is set up that day, they're covered. One letter home, at the start of the year: "Do you want your child removed from class when this comes up - yes or no?")

The bottom line is that while students might be the ones served by the educational system in this province, it's the parents who are the decision-making consumers of the system. As a non-parent and a person of no particular identifiable faith, I can nonetheless see the absolute hazard of government giving parents no recourse to object to curriculum. I worry that failing to reinforce parental rights in light of the addition of sexual preference to the protected groups could result in some parents pulling their children out of public school altogether, making an already BAD situation WORSE for those children, and for us as a society. Whether they resorted to home schooling, Charter schools or private schools, the loss of those young minds and voices from our discussion would be a lose/lose scenario for all of us.

I just have to wonder, though, if it's necessary to place those parental rights in this particular piece of legislation. Do parents need to have the recourse of filing a human rights complaint about what their children have been taught in a public school? Could this right for parents not be codified in the School Act, for example?

Supporters of the Bill say no. If you're going to extend human rights protection on the basis of sexual orientation, they argue, you should likewise ensure that the rights of parents to exert control over their child's public education are respected in the same piece of legislation - it's no less important.

After all (and this is an argument that really made me stop and think - it's a good one), you can't on the one hand demand that rights ALREADY guaranteed by the Federal Government (against discrimination based on sexual orientation) be enshrined in Provincial law, and then turn around and say that parental rights that have been in practice for decades shouldn't be granted full legal definition by the Province. If it's good for the goose...

Ultimately, all the naysayers and harbingers of doom have to admit that the final interpretation of what these amendments will mean will, in fact, be in the hands of the Human Rights Tribunals themselves. The irony is, neither side of the issue trusts the Tribunals: the liberals feel the Tribunals will rule Alberta back to the Dark Ages, and the social conservatives already have a serious case of the heebie-jeebies (not, not these guys, who are awesome, by the way) when they even hear the WORDS "human rights tribunal", thinking that they're the firm right hand of the liberal political correctness establishment.

The discussion WE need to be having, as a society, is about the rights of parents versus the rights of children. Because they USUALLY are in agreement... but when they're NOT, we need to have decided as a people what steps are to be taken, rather than leaving it to the political leaders of the day. Education, like child care, shouldn't be a political football to be tossed around and modified for the benefit of those seeking re-election.

Opposition members, if you want to talk about human rights this week, let's talk about them. But is it too much for me to ask that in so doing you at least TRY not to let your arrogant and smug sense of superiority over these "simple minded Christians" (who are so obviously unfit to have a say in their children's education) come through in your "sky is falling" objections to what SHOULD be a Bill celebrated for finally protecting Albertans from discrimination based on who they fall in love with?

No one seems all that happy with this Bill. Teachers are unhappy, school boards are unhappy, even the Social Conservatives and religious lobbies are unhappy because they feel the parental rights protection isn’t broad enough. The only group I HAVEN’T heard weigh in on this issue is the very group which inspired the initial attempt to refine the Human Rights rules: The GBLT community, which has been conspicuous in its silence.

The ideal, perhaps the ONLY, acceptable outcome here would be a free vote on the issue in the Legislative Assembly. But, politically speaking, the social Progressive/Conservative rift in the PC party is already showing a little bit in this furor. A free vote would split it wide open, for all to see - something I suspect will NOT be happening.

Bill 44, minus fear-mongering and worst-case scenario soothsaying, can be read here.