Delivering letters to another politician – your voices matter!

delivering binders standing in front of van

Thank you to MLA Leela Aheer, Education Critic for the Wildrose Official Opposition, for meeting with me today at her Legislature office.

MLA Aheer listened intently to the summary of concerns I described, promised to look into specific questions, and was impressed by the work that was done to compile the letters. She offered to table the letters in the Legislature before the June 9th end of the legislative session if the Minister of Education is unable to schedule a meeting prior to that time.

I expressed my appreciation to MLA Aheer for her March 14th Member’s Statement and April 4th questioning of the Education Minister in the Legislature, both of which were specifically focused on concerns regarding the sexually graphic material. It is obvious she cares deeply about the safety of children in this province.

You can also extend a word of thanks to MLA Aheer by either commenting directly on the Facebook pictures she posted from our meeting together or sending her an email at chestermere.rockyview@assembly.ab.ca

I am pleased to have now been able to meet in-person with MLA Aheer, as well as Jason Kenney, leader of the Progressive Conservative party.

Jason Kenney will be sharing your letters with PC Education Critic Dave Rodney, who I hope to also meet with soon.

I continue to work toward re-scheduling a meeting with the Minister of Education, David Eggen. Please continue to phone his office (780 427 5010) and let him know that it is important he meets together to discuss this important topic.

Thank you again to everyone for your continued persistence in demanding that the safety of children in Alberta schools is a top priority.  Know that your voices of concern matter and are being heard.

Who do our elected representatives stand for? The protection of children or iSMSS?

THANK YOU to the concerned and caring people of Alberta for your incredible response to the letter writing campaign. In only 5 short weeks I received hundreds and hundreds of personal letters through the mail from across the province.

THANK YOU for investing your time and effort to write and mail letters on behalf of children in Alberta.

As promised, I photocopied three stacks of these letters– one each for the Minister of Education, the Wildrose party and the PC party.

With each letter photocopied onto a single paper, the stack of pages for each politician is over 3 inches tall and weighs nearly 7 pounds.  That is an incredible response of personally written and mailed letters in such a short amount of time!

letters pile over 3 inches

Page by page I have read your words of concern – the voices of health professionals, teachers, school administrators, students, parents and grandparents who repeat the same refrain to our elected representatives, urging them to take a stand for the safety of children in this province and insisting that those responsible for directing children to sexually graphic material are no longer entrusted with any further influence or authority over our K-12 education system.

Unfortunately, not all politicians want to bear the responsibility for hearing your voices.

It has been a lot of work, time and energy going back and forth with emails, text messages and phone calls. Here is the current update on the meetings.

Update: Minister of Education

Late Thursday I received email notification from the Minister’s office that the scheduled meeting for this week was canceled. It seems the impetus for their concerns was my request to have someone accompany me to the meeting instead of going by myself. I was invited to phone the Minister’s office after the long weekend to receive further clarification.

Immediately after the long weekend, on Tuesday morning, I left voicemail messages and also sent an email. However, I have not yet heard a response.  I will continue to work with the Minister’s office toward a resolution that is mutually acceptable.

Update: Brian Jean and Leela Aheer

Previously the office of Leela Aheer, Education Critic for the Wildrose, had stated she would be quite willing to arrange a meeting prior to May 31st, whether together with Minister Eggen or separately.

After many messages back and forth with MLA Aheer’s office, it now turns out that the only time being offered to me before May 31st is a 30 minute time slot this Thursday that she is not guaranteed to attend.

I have been very clear from the beginning that I will deliver the letters in-person to our elected representatives in a one hour meeting. I intend to keep that promise.

In response, I have now requested the first one hour time slot MLA Aheer has available in June. I am willing to travel to her constituency office if necessary.  Given how MLA Aheer has courageously advocated on this issue in the past, I am hopeful that she will be able to find an hour in the midst of her busy schedule to listen to these important concerns.

I have also sent messages to Brian Jean’s staff requesting a meeting with him. I have not received a reply.

Update: Jason Kenney and Dave Rodney

Thank you to Jason Kenney for taking an hour out of his busy schedule to meet with me last week. Jason Kenney was attentive and responsive to our concerns.  As he flipped through the binders he was especially impressed with the effort, time and expense that people from across the province put into writing and mailing personal letters. He received the binders and agreed to share them with the PC Education Critic, Dave Rodney. I have been speaking with Dave Rodney’s office to try and schedule a follow-up meeting with him as well.

Keep up the pressure

Remember: The Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (iSMSS) is deeply entrenched within our K-12 education system and have regularly engaged in rhetoric to marginalize and dismiss voices of concern.

Given how readily an iSMSS Director publicly chastised radio host Danielle Smith for daring to provide an interview about the sexually graphic material the day after I published my original blog article (listen to his specific comments starting at minute 13:10), I would imagine that iSMSS is likewise also exerting tremendous pressure on our politicians to not meet together and receive our letters. These tactics of intimidation are unacceptable.

Make sure our elected representatives continue to hear from you. Insist that these one hour meetings take place in order to receive your letters and address these critical concerns.

Phone, email or make the effort to attend one of their community events so you can mention this issue in-person.

Ask them directly if they received any correspondence from  iSMSS, Dr. Wells or Dr. Grace to discourage meeting with us to hear our concerns.

On behalf of the children in this province we must continue to persistently advocate for the highest standards of care, safety respect and professionalism in our K-12 education system. 

Demand that each one of these elected representatives step up and ensure that the care of Alberta children in schools is a top priority, not just through their words, but also through their actions. 

Education Minister David Eggen:
780 427 5010, education.minister@gov.ab.ca

Leader of the Official Opposition, Brian Jean:
780 427 1031, fortmcmurray.conklin@assembly.ab.ca

Wildrose Education Critic, Leela Aheer:
780 422 0315, chestermere.rockyview@assembly.ab.ca

Progressive Conservative Education Critic, Dave Rodney:
780 415 1325, calgary.lougheed@assembly.ab.ca

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UPDATES:

May 24th, 4:45 p.m.: I appreciate that since publishing this blog article this morning that MLA Aheer’s office has contacted me and we have worked out a mutually agreeable solution. I have accepted the Thursday meeting with the understanding that if MLA Aheer is unable to attend because of her legislative responsibilities that I will keep the letters and arrange an alternate meeting date when I can speak with her directly. Also, if our conversation has not been resolved before she has to go to her next appointment then I will receive a follow-up meeting to continue our conversation at a later date.

Minister of Education will meet to address concerns of sexually graphic material

Minister of Education agrees to meet

Thank you to Minister of Education David Eggen for agreeing to meet with me next week. See below for my reply to his office.

And a tremendous thank you to Albertans from across the province who have taken the time to write letters and entrusted me with your voices.  This meeting would not have been possible if not for your efforts.   Your letters of concern for your children and stories of real-life experiences have moved me.

We must remember that while it is easy to voice displeasure to politicians, it is equally important to extend gratitude.

Please phone Minister Eggen’s office throughout this week (780 427 5010)  to express your thanks that he is willing to meet together and hear our concerns.  Share this message through social media and email and encourage others to also phone and say thank you.

These phone calls of appreciation are especially important because I anticipate that in the coming days there may be attempts to pressure our elected representatives to discredit and dismiss our voices of concern for the children in this province.

We must continue to persistently remind our elected representatives that the safety of children in our K-12 schools is an issue of critical importance that must be taken seriously.

When those entrusted with the care of children have exposed them to sexually graphic material – and even legitimized the use of sexually graphic resources for an audience of youth – it is essential that there must be accountability and consequences.

Thank you again for your continued support and advocacy efforts on behalf of the children in this province!

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Dear Minister of Education,

Thank you for your willingness to meet together next week.

As I have said before, the letters I will deliver to you are not just pieces of paper. Each personally written page represents a concerned citizen – students, parents, grandparents and taxpayers from across the province – whose concerns deserve to be heard, valued and responded to.

I applaud you for speaking often of your desire to ensure a safe, caring, welcoming and respectful learning environment for all students in Alberta schools. I trust your intentions will be demonstrated not only through your words, but also through meaningful action.

As you are aware, Donna Trimble, Executive Director for Parents for Choice in Education, represents many parents in Alberta who have also expressed concerns about this issue. She will attend the meeting with me in order to give voice to the thousands of parents she represents across the province.

Thank you again and I look forward to meeting with you soon.

Sincerely,
Theresa Ng

UPDATE: Wildrose response to meeting request

Willdrose response

Thank you to everyone for sending your letters. This morning I received a message from the Wildrose. Please see below for that communication.

As I have promised, I take my role seriously as a representative of your concerns and will post updates on these communications publicly to ensure everyone is aware of what actions our politicians will take to ensure the highest standard of safety and care for children in Alberta schools.

Please continue to encourage the Minister of Education to schedule a meeting date before the end of the month by phoning his office 780 427 5010.

Message received from Wildrose Legislative and Outreach Assistant – May 12th, 8:36 a.m.

Dear Theresa,

On behalf of Leela Aheer and the Wildrose team you have included in your email, I would like to thank you for your invitation to receive the letters you have collected in person.

We will happily meet and believe it would be most effective to include Minister Eggen at our meeting, since he is the one who currently has the ability to resolve these issues that mean so much to so many parents.

To that end, we will contact his office and set at date here in Edmonton.

As always, we thank you for being such a tremendous advocate for Albertans, and look forward to seeing you.

Regards on behalf of MLA Leela Aheer

My reply – sent May 12th, 9:56 a.m.

Thank you for your email on behalf of MLA Leela Aheer and the Wildrose team.

I agree it would be most effective to include Minister Eggen in our meeting and appreciate your efforts to encourage him to attend.

Minister Eggen has spoken often of his desire to ensure a safe, caring, welcoming and respectful learning environment for all students in Alberta schools. To that end I am hopeful that he understands the importance of the concerns being voiced from citizens across the province and will make it a top priority to work with your office and schedule a meeting between the dates of May 17th and 31st. I look forward to receiving a meeting date soon.

However, one point of clarification: Please ensure in your communication with Minister Eggen that a meeting date before May 31st is scheduled and confirmed prior to Friday, May 19th.

If the Minister of Education declines to offer a meeting date then I would still expect a one hour in-person meeting with MLA Leela Aheer and Brian Jean before the end of the month in order to ensure that the Wildrose team is fully aware of the concerns being voiced by Albertans across the province, regardless of the Education Minister’s attendance.

Thank you very much to MLA Leela Aheer and the Wildrose team for working toward ensuring the highest standard of safety and care for all children in our K-12 school system.

Just a reminder that I will be posting these messages publicly on my Informed Albertans blog since I am advocating on behalf of so many people across the province who have entrusted me to represent their concerns.

Most Sincerely,
Theresa

A good news day! And last call for letters!

a pile of letters

Two good news items to pass along tonight.

First, I had so many letters to pick up this afternoon that they didn’t even fit into the PO box. I had to go to the counter to pick up the huge bundle. Well done!

One last reminder that the deadline is tomorrow (Friday May 12th) to get your letters in the mail. The more letters, the better!  All letter-writing details are available HERE.

Second, I received a response from Jason Kenney, leader of the Progressive Conservative party, that he will meet with me next Friday May 19th for an hour, at which time I will bring copies of each letter I have received and discuss what can be done to address these concerns. My sincere gratitude to Mr. Kenney for understanding that the safety of children in schools is an issue of critical importance deserving of his time and attention.

I am still waiting to hear back from the Minister of Education and anyone in the Wildrose Party regarding scheduling a meeting to receive the letters of concern.  Please continue to phone their offices and remind them of their responsibility to stand up for all Albertans, especially the children in this province who deserve the highest standard of care in our K-12 schools.

Education Minister’s Office: 780 427 5010
Leader of the Official Opposition, Brian Jean: 780 427 1031
Wildrose Education Critic, Leela Aheer: 780 422 0315

Let these politicians know that anyone who deems it acceptable to provide resources to youth of a graphic sexual nature – including the Zebra: Sex from A – Z cards, or any of the sexually graphic material that was previously offered to children on the GSA Network – should not be entrusted with any further authority and influence over our K-12 education system.

When the safety and care of children are at stake, we must continue to demand that our elected representatives take a clear stand and ensure that these concerns are resolved.

I look forward to more politicians stepping up and sending messages soon that they will also meet in-person for an hour to discuss these important issues and the actions they plan to take.

UPDATE:

May 12th, 10:55 a.m. – A response has been received from the Wildrose and published on my blog. Please see update blog article “Wildrose Response to Meeting Request

How does promoting porn to kids save lives?

After publishing the blog article “The ABCs you didn’t know your kids could learn at school” on May 2nd, a few readers sent some important links that I was previously unaware of.

The first was a National Post article from nearly two years ago which describes how the Zebra: Sex from A-Z cards were provided to Grade 8 and 9 students in British Columbia after a presentation on healthy relationships.

 

CHEW zebra cards National Post article

 

According to the National Post article:

The card creators themselves say the cards were not meant to be distributed to minors in school.

“This resource in particular is for gay, bi, queer men,” said Chris Thomas, spokesman for the AIDS Committee of Toronto. “Generally, we use them in bars and bathhouses.”

Keep in mind that intended audience of “bars and bathhouses” as you consider how the cards are being justified for use with youth here in Alberta.

Dr. Andre Grace, the Director of the CHEW Project and a Director with the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (iSMSS) at the University of Alberta, has provided a written document on the CHEW Project website which justifies the continued use of these controversial cards to an audience of youth, stating that “Lessons that young people learn from viewing these cards could help them to stay alive.”

Here are some questions for Dr. Grace and anyone else who considers these A-Z cards to be helpful for an audience of youth:

– Is it necessary to include graphic descriptions of felching, brown and yellow showers and auto-fellatio to effectively contribute to saving lives and better health for youth?

– While defending the A-Z cards, Dr. Grace cites statistics on soaring HIV and STI rates in Alberta, especially in the age category of 15 to 29 year olds.  Do the experts at the CHEW Project and iSMSS truly believe that a resource which promotes anonymous sex and use of pornography will lead to improved health outcomes for youth?

– Do the Zebra: Sex from A to Z cards reflect the highest standard of quality resources that the CHEW Project and iSMSS are capable of providing to the vulnerable youth who they claim to support?

– “CHEW” is an acronym for “Comprehensive Health Education Workers”, considered to be the provincial experts on comprehensive sex education (CSE). Are the Zebra: Sex from A to Z cards reflective of the kind of resources we can expect more of with the recent push by Edmonton Public School trustees for more “comprehensive” and “inclusive” sexual education in our new Alberta curriculum?

We know the CHEW Project and iSMSS are still currently and directly involved in Alberta’s K-12 education system, including offering in-school presentations during instructional time.  iSMSS also maintains full control of the GSA Network, which is still recommended by Alberta Education and continues to be authorized to collect registrations directly from K-12 children to “provide other community supports” (see my previous blog article to learn more about the “community supports” which used to be publicly available).

How is it that these same individuals/organizations can still be entrusted with positions of expertise, influence and authority over children in schools, especially when they continue to actively promote the Zebra: Sex from A to Z cards as appropriate for use with a youth audience?

We know the Minister of Education is capable of publicly expressing strong words of disapproval when it comes to guest speaker presentations which he deems inappropriate.

Aren’t similar public statements of denunciation warranted when representatives of organizations with authority over our K-12 education system legitimize resources for youth that promote porn and anonymous sex?

As many of you know, I sent emails last week to the Minister of Education, as well as the leaders and Education Critics of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties, requesting one hour in-person meetings to deliver the letters of concern I have been collecting and  hear what they will do to address these concerns.

Earlier today I sent follow-up emails to each of these politicians with the following text:

This is a reminder that I have not yet received a response to the email message I sent to you on Friday, May 5th.  The original message is included below for your reference.

Please reply prior to 4 p.m. on Monday May 15th to indicate when you are available between the dates of May 17th and 31st to meet together for one hour and discuss the concerns being voiced by citizens across the province, as well as the actions you will take to ensure these concerns are fully addressed.

As I’m sure you would agree, the safety and well-being of children in our province is an issue of critical and urgent importance.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
Theresa Ng

For those Albertans who are concerned about these issues and want answers, please phone the offices of these politicians to remind them that this is still a topic of critical, urgent importance. Encourage them to reply to me by Monday afternoon with a date and time they are able to meet and discuss these concerns. The phone numbers for their Legislative offices are below:

Education Minister’s Office: 780 427 5010
Leader of the Official Opposition, Brian Jean: 780 427 1031
Wildrose Education Critic, Leela Aheer: 780 422 0315
Progressive Conservative Education Critic, Dave Rodney: 780 415 1325

And one last reminder: There are still two days left to get your letters in the mail (deadline Friday night) so please take action today.  All the details, including a letter-writing tip sheet, are available HERE.

Please take a stand and speak up for the safety of children in Alberta schools.

UPDATE:

May 12th, 11 a.m. – Responses have been received by both Jason Kenney, leader of the Progressive Conservative party, and the Wildrose team.  Please see updates published on my blog articles entitled “A good news day! And last call for letters!” and “Wildrose Response to Meeting Request

Your letters matter! Read messages sent to politicians today

Your letters matter Read the messages sent to politicians today

Thank you to each person who has mailed a letter regarding the sexually graphic material which was made available to K-12 children through an Alberta government-funded and recommended website.  Quantity of letters is extremely important and I urge you to write and mail your letter if haven’t already done so.

In my video I gave my word, promising that I would not let our politicians forget about our concerns. And I meant it.

Albertans expect and deserve the highest standards of care and professionalism from those entrusted with the care of K-12 children in schools.

When there has been such a severe violation of public trust and when the safety of children has been put at risk, then meaningful actions must be taken to ensure proper accountability.

Today I sent emails to a number of our elected representatives, requesting 1 hour meetings in order to personally deliver our letters, as well as hear from them directly about what actions they will take on this important issue.

Because I am representing the concerns of so many people across the province, I have informed these politicians that all correspondence with them will be posted publicly on my blog. Please see below for the messages I sent to them earlier today.

For anyone who wants to stay up-to-date on replies received and further actions that will be taken, I encourage you to subscribe to my blog in order to ensure all information is delivered directly to your inbox.

One more reminder: quantity of letters is extremely important. The deadline to get letters in the mail is exactly one week from today.

Please continue to email and share this information with others. All letter-writing details are available HERE. I assure you that each and every letter received WILL make a difference.

Thank you for speaking up for the care and safety of children in Alberta schools!

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To the Minister of Education

Dear Education Minister David Eggen,

If you are not yet aware of my letter writing campaign, I encourage you to watch my video and read the petition through this link:

https://informedalbertans.wordpress.com/sexually-graphic-material-to-kids-in-alberta-schools-what-you-can-do/

I would like to schedule a 1 hour meeting with you at some point between May 17 and May 31 in order to deliver the stack of letters I have been collecting and discuss the actions which you will take to address these concerns.

Donna Trimble, Sara Baril and myself were promised a follow-up meeting during our May 25th visit with you last year. Delivering these letters on behalf of concerned citizens across the province seems like a fitting opportunity for all of us to meet again and continue the dialogue we started.

These letters are not just pieces of paper. Each personally written page represents a concerned citizen – students, parents, grandparents and taxpayers from across the province – whose concerns deserve to be heard, valued and responded to.

As a representative advocating on behalf of many people across the province, I will be posting this message, as well as any replies received, publicly on my Informed Albertans blog.

Please let me know which date and time works best, in either Calgary or Edmonton.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
Theresa Ng

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To the Wildrose Leader and Education Critic

Dear Brian Jean and Leela Aheer,

Thank you MLA Aheer for questioning the Minister of Education about the sexually graphic material on the GSA Network website on April 3rd.  As you know, this issue is of tremendous concern to citizens across the province who care for the safety of children in our K-12 education system.

I would like to schedule a 1 hour meeting with you both at some point between May 17 and May 31 in order to deliver the stack of letters I have been collecting and discuss actions which your party will take to address these concerns.

These letters are not just pieces of paper. Each personally written page represents a concerned citizen – students, parents, grandparents and taxpayers from across the province – whose concerns deserve to be heard, valued and responded to.

As a representative advocating on behalf of many people across the province, I will be posting this message, as well as any replies received, publicly on my Informed Albertans blog.

Please let me know which date and time works best, in either Calgary or Edmonton.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
Theresa Ng

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To the Progressive Conservative Leader and Education Critic

Dear Jason Kenney and Dave Rodney,

If you are not yet aware of my letter writing campaign, I encourage you to watch my video and read the petition through this link:

https://informedalbertans.wordpress.com/sexually-graphic-material-to-kids-in-alberta-schools-what-you-can-do/

I would like to schedule a 1 hour meeting with you at some point between May 17 and May 31 in order to deliver the stack of letters I have been collecting and discuss actions which your party will take to address these concerns.

These letters are not just pieces of paper. Each personally written page represents a concerned citizen – students, parents, grandparents and taxpayers from across the province – whose concerns deserve to be heard, valued and responded to.

As a representative advocating on behalf of many people across the province, I will be posting this message, as well as any replies received, publicly on my Informed Albertans blog.

Please let me know which date and time works best, in either Calgary or Edmonton.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
Theresa Ng