Welcome to Alberta in 2016. Welcome to a place where parental concerns on educational policies are labeled as bigotry. A place where disagreement is classified as “hate”. And where terms such as “tolerance”, “equality”, “diversity” and “inclusion” have become so narrowly defined that they extend only to those who share the same worldview.
Look at all the progress we have made!
Ryan Sauve, an Alberta dad, has taken to YouTube with a catchy rap in response to a mother who recently rapped about her concerns regarding Alberta Education’s guidelines.
Sauve is entitled to his view. However, I am disappointed he has chosen to resort to labels of bigotry that perpetuate a mischaracterization of those who voice concerns about Alberta Education’s guidelines document.
I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he is uninformed of the depths of this issue, perhaps naively unaware of the alarmingly fierce and aggressive backlash that continues to persist against those who oppose the guidelines.
I will assume he doesn’t understand how his video fans the flames of hatred toward those of us who continue to respectfully voice our legitimate concerns. In this context, perhaps he doesn’t comprehend the potential danger he incites through his rallying cry: “It’s time to unite and take a stand and rid our schools of this bigotry”. What exactly does that mean, Mr. Sauve?
And of course, once again, claims of bigotry are somehow legitimized in the name of “respect for diversity”.
Minister Eggen, however, is not uninformed of these facts. 2200 people in just over one week showed their support for an Open Letter to Minister Eggen, which he responded to on March 15. In the letter we specifically voiced concerns over the onslaught of disrespectful labels directed at our March 1 #protectABkids Twitter Campaign, arguing that imposing “one view of sexuality and gender on everyone, even if they don’t agree with it, and then resort to labeling and name calling to silence dissent is NOT the way a democratic society should operate.”
How shocking then that our Minister of Education would use his public Facebook and Twitter accounts to endorse the rap, even going so far as to label it with the word “Respect!” on his Facebook page.
Thankfully Minister Eggen deleted the tweet and Facebook post this morning due to the resulting public outrage and offense. However, clearly Eggen has some public explaining and apologizing to do beyond just removing the post.
Unfortunately associating disagreement with the guidelines with bigotry and hatred continues to be perpetuated through other spheres of influence as well.
Dr. Kristopher Wells, a professor at the University of Alberta, exerts tremendous influence over Alberta Education policies, legislation and teacher professional development. He is also the media’s “go to” expert for countless news stories relating to LGTBQ youth or sexual orientation and gender identity policies and holds an important role as a leader and advocate within the LGBTQ community.
Using his position of influence, he labeled my blog and our #protectABkids Campaign as “Hate gets organized against LGBTQ kids”, publicly maligning our opposition as discrimination and further inciting hostility toward our concerns.
This past weekend he posted “a MUST watch” video on his public Facebook account. The viral video produced by “One World Voice” has since been removed from the internet altogether (perhaps because enough people justifiably reported it as offensive), so unfortunately Albertans are unable to listen for themselves what Wells claimed to be “inclusive faith and leadership”. However, from his public position of influence, Wells endorses a video that labels people as “anti-LGBTQ bigots” and encourages sharing it with “every person who argues against inclusive LGBTQ policy on religious grounds”.
Notably, a minute after posting the video, Wells even tagged his Facebook friends – none other than Minister Eggen, Marni Panas and two Edmonton Catholic school board trustees.
I dislike reducing my blog posts to screenshots of deleted posts. However, in their positions of influence within our government and education system, these people hold positions of public trust. They are therefore obligated to be held publicly accountable for their actions.
Minister Eggen has damaged the confidence of parents and the electorate through his endorsements and associations with those who promote such inaccurate and disrespectful mischaracterizations of thousands of Albertans who remain concerned about the guidelines document.
Eggen has assured Albertans that any of the submitted school board policies have yet to be approved. However, has his perspective been skewed to such an extent that he is able to oversee this approval process in a balanced manner that truly takes into account the concerns increasingly voiced by an electorate he has been democratically entrusted to represent?
A person can easily delete inappropriate comments on Twitter and Facebook, but unfortunately no one can just as easily erase the impact that such views have on our education system – on our students, school board policies and the long-term future of our province.
The strength of a democracy in the 21st century rests on a society and an education system that values a diversity of thought, a thoughtful balancing of accommodations and a respectful exchange of ideas, free of coercion, manipulation and name-calling.
Diversity is a source of strength. We can learn from each other, we can listen to ideas and perspectives that are different from our own – and our school policies will be more effective as a result.
How have we fallen so far from that ideal? When did we begin living in a province where respectfully presented concerns and opposing viewpoints are construed as bigotry and hate, by members of the public, elected officials and those of influence in our education system?
Welcome to Alberta in 2016.