Alberta court hears that children were taken out of school by “facilitators” to Gay-Straight conferences without parental knowledge

This will come as no surprise to anyone, but as Alberta’s religious schools battle it out with the NDP government over Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs and the government’s demand that parents not be told of their children’s activities at schools, it turns out that the government is again lying to parents and to the public. Licia Corbella has been doing a magnificent job of covering this story for the Calgary Herald, and on December 4 noted that there were some “shocking revelations” on Monday at the Alberta Court of Appeal:

Jay Cameron, a lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) and the appellant in this case, revealed evidence that shows children in one GSA were taken off school grounds by an adult “facilitator” who is not a staff member at the school and doesn’t even have children attending the school. The facilitator took children to the facilitator’s home and to other schools with GSAs, driving them in a personal vehicle without the parents’ consent or knowledge. As is mandated under the Alberta government’s Bill 24, it is against the law to inform parents of their child’s involvement in a GSA.

You don’t have to be an applicant in this case to be alarmed by such revelations.

The JCCF is appealing a ruling by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Johanna Kubik, who ruled on June 27 against granting an interim injunction that would have stayed sections of the school act prohibiting principals from using their discretion to tell parents about their child attending a GSA. They also sought to prohibit Alberta’s Minister of Education, David Eggen, from defunding or de-accrediting schools for non-compliance with GSA legislation.

Cameron also told the three Appeal Court Justices — Chair Frederica Schutz, Bruce McDonald and Dawn Pentelechuk — that in another case, a 13-year-old boy who was a member of a GSA was taken off school grounds to a GSA conference.

The boy was told that “his mother would not know if he attended a GSA conference and miss all of his classes,” said Cameron, who is representing 26 religious schools, including Christian, Sikh and Jewish schools, that object to the secrecy provisions of GSA legislation, arguing that it violates two sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — Section 7, which only permits interference with a parent’s role after due process, on a case-by-case basis, and Section 2, the fundamental right to freedom of religion.

Cameron pointed out that at the off-site GSA conference, the boy said he “watched a demonstration on how to put a condom on a banana; he was given materials with a space ship shaped like a giant penis with a caption “explore your anus”; (and), he was given a 50-page flip book with step-by-step instructions on how to have sex, with what appears to be an older individual,” Cameron told the court packed with about 60 people inside the room and another 60 outside, where the proceedings could be followed on a screen.

Court heard the boy was also given 153 condoms. Cameron said the boy did not learn about sexually transmitted infections at the conference but had to learn that information from his mother once she found the graphic materials in his room.

The Crown objected to that evidence being considered in the appeal. Later, Crown attorney Kristan McLeod told the court that parents are supposed to be told when their children are taken off school grounds. And therein lies the rub of this legislation. There are no controls over what materials are provided and by whom or even whether kids can leave the school without parental consent.

“It is our respectful submission that young children should not be provided with graphic flip books on how to have sex; there is a line between where that is appropriate and where it is not and right now there are no parameters,” Cameron added.

He pointed out that parents need not be religious to believe “it’s wisest not to have sex at an early age with multiple partners” and that the GSA legislation, as it stands, jeopardizes the safety of Alberta’s children, especially the most vulnerable, and undermines parents’ ability to support and protect their own children.

All of the justices repeatedly asked questions of the Crown about Eggen threatening schools with having their funding and accreditation removed, if they don’t comply with Bill 24.

Justice Kubik had ruled back in June that there was no evidence that a school’s funding or accreditation was at risk. Clearly, now it is. One of the intervenors in the case, lawyer Brendan MacArthur-Stevens, made many compelling points from the opposite point of view.

“Many students will have joined GSAs over the past year in reliance on the enhanced privacy protections the legislation provides,” he said on behalf of the Calgary Sexual Health Centre.

“Pulling the rug out from under these students and temporarily stripping these enhanced privacy protections away . . . would be grossly unfair to this vulnerable population,” he argued.

In other words, those who are advocating for a system in which children can be pulled out of classes, without the knowledge of their parents, and taken to conferences with sexually explicit materials and even instructions, are arguing that it would be unfair to those kids for parents to informed in case those parents might disagree with such goings-on. Additionally, the government is saying in court that parents should be informed if children are taken off school grounds, but it is their own legislation that has ensured parents are not told. And then there is simply the fact that that an adult “facilitator” of a Gay-Straight Alliance Club is taking kids out of school without their parent’s knowledge and at one point took a child to his or her home. That is appalling.

Corbella followed up with a report on December 5, noting that teachers and principals who attended the Alberta Court of Appeal hearing are pointing out that the government is giving “inaccurate” information in court about how Gay-Straight alliances are governed. Alberta’s NDP government, she wrote, appears to be providing conflicting information:

During the hearing, Crown attorney Kristan McLeod told the three justices that the only thing schools are not allowed to share with parents is who is attending a GSA — a club that must be established at a school should a student request one.

“There is not secrecy around the establishment of GSAs,” McLeod told justices Frederica Schutz, Bruce McDonald and Dawn Pentelechuk in a courtroom packed with about 60 people inside and another 60 watching proceedings outside the courtroom.

“Parents are allowed to find out about which activities their GSAs are engaging in,” said McLeod. “Schools and teachers are allowed to control what those activities are. There needs to be parental notification about any off-school activities, whether there needs to be vetting of any materials being distributed, what the activities are. The only thing that is not allowed to be disclosed is whether or not a child is attending a GSA.”

That, however, is not what the legislation says, it is not what the Alberta government said in response to a question on the issue Tuesday, it is not what government documents — particularly what has been dubbed the Rainbow Reprimand — state, it’s not what Education Minister David Eggen has repeatedly said and it runs counter to evidence provided to the court on Monday and by numerous teachers and principals.

Section 16.1(1) of the School Act states that if a student asks to set up a GSA, the principal of the school “shall immediately” grant permission and “is responsible for ensuring that notification, if any, respecting a voluntary student organization or an activity referred to in subsection (1) is limited to the fact of the establishment of the organization or the holding of the activity.”

“There’s a flaw in the law,” said Jay Cameron, a lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which is representing the 26 schools in the appeal. “What’s happening on the ground is that the legislation restricts the information parents are told about their children. Principals can’t tell parents that their kids are attending a GSA conference off of school grounds without informing the parents that their child is attending a GSA.”

In the colour-coded government document sent to schools whose safe and caring policies do not comply with Bill 24, on Page 5 (just one of numerous examples) the government highlighted in green a school policy that reads: “Planning of events (including invitation of outside speakers) and notification about activities to be undertaken will be in accordance with the usual practices and responsibilities of the school.” (The bolded portion was highlighted to be removed.)

…Two teachers from a central Alberta Christian school told Postmedia on Tuesday that a “field services manager” who was working with them in an effort to help their school become compliant with Bill 24 told them that the information the school can share with a parent is “limited to the fact of the establishment” of the GSA. Postmedia heard a recording of the conversation.

Only in the case of a student being in dire risk of harm could any information be shared with parents, the field services manager said during an almost two-hour telephone conversation that was taped in July. If a teacher or principal defies this legislation, they can have their certification to teach stripped.

When asked to clarify what can or can’t be divulged under Bill 24, a spokesperson with Alberta Education wrote Tuesday: “All the information you’re looking for can be found here: https://education.alberta.ca/gay-straight-alliances/what-is-a-gsa/.”

The pertinent sentence states: “Clarifying that parental notification around courses of study, educational programs or instructional materials does not apply to student organizations or activities, including GSAs and QSAs.”

“There are no exceptions to the requirement that principals restrict info from parents, except that a club has been established in the school. That’s it,” confirmed Cameron.

If what the Crown attorney said was actually the case, Cameron says, there would be no need for his clients’ legal challenge. 

It is significant that the Crown attorney is misrepresenting the government’s policies and their practice in court: It indicates that the government has perhaps realized that the results of their policies are indefensible. Which Albertan parent is going to be comfortable discovering that their child was taken off school grounds without their knowledge or permission (which is apparently not needed) by a stranger who is not employed by the school and taken to that person’s house, or to a sex conference in which pornographic instructions on different sex acts are given? Which parent is going to believe that they should be specifically and explicitly cut out of the information loop when decisions about their child’s wellbeing and sexual education are at stake?

The NDP government will probably try to write off the instances provided by JCCF as aberrations, but the truth is that they are the logical consequence—if not the intended consequence—of Bill 24. Education Minister David Eggen and his ideological cronies want children to be given the sort of sex education they see fit, and they do not want any interference from the parents. They are giving children sexual information, and in some instances even pornographic material and sexual instructions, under the guise of protecting children from their parents. They are gaslighting Albertan parents, and they must be stopped at all costs.

Written by: Jonathon Van Maren

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