I would like to begin by publicly expressing my heartfelt thoughts and prayers toward all the people affected by the fires in Fort McMurray and elsewhere in the province. The devastation is heartbreaking.
I also want to share tremendous gratitude to all volunteers, emergency responders and citizens from across our province and country who are helping support those affected by the fire. You are amazing.
Some have asked whether we will proceed with the May 14th rally in light of these recent events. Donna Trimble, Executive Director of Parents for Choice in Education, booked the Legislature for this rally in November 2015. There are logistics that have been set in motion for months and it is too late to re-organize on such short notice. We will be proceeding with the May 14th peaceful rallies in Calgary and Edmonton, while also encouraging all Albertans to continue supporting those affected by the fires in whatever ways they are able to.
Minister Eggen has been clear that none of the school board policies submitted on March 31 have been approved and that it will take weeks to review all of them. Considering the tremendous long-term impact of Bill 10 and the Guidelines on the future of all children and families in our province, it is essential that we continue to voice our concerns to our MLAs and Minister of Education during this critical window of time – hoping we can still influence change before any approvals are officially passed .
To provide some perspective on why we must continue to be persistent in voicing our concerns, I would like to share an April 19th article from the Airdrie Echo regarding the sexual orientation and gender identity school policies (please note the added emphasis is my own):
Larissa Liepins, the press secretary for the education minister, said no school boards were exempt from sending their policies, outlining how they will make their schools inclusive, to Eggen by his March 31 deadline.
However, she said the best practices aren’t mandatory at this time.
“We strongly encourage them to implement as many of the guidelines as possible,” said Liepins, noting schools are legislated to conform to three applicable laws: the School Act, the Alberta Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“What we say is that local school authorities are in the best position to make sure their school community is protecting those rights in accordance with Canadian and Alberta laws.”
Liepins said there are 61 school boards in the province, along with 100 private and 13 charter schools, and the Ministry is “open to discussion with any of the boards who have questions or concerns” about the guidelines.
She said the creation of the document was motivated, at least in part, by a request from the Alberta Teacher’s Association to develop inclusive guidelines, noting the Ministry also worked with several school boards in developing their policies to comply.
“We are happy with the progress that has been made with [school board policies],” said Liepins.
Liepens said Alberta Education believes that every student deserves a caring, safe and respectful school environment to allow them to learn.
She added the controversy about the guidelines has dwindled.
“I think people are seeing that it is not the threat they thought it once was,” said Liepens.
“In fact [many see] it as a very good thing to support… it makes a better learning environment for all students.”
When I came across this article I was astounded by how MLAs could apparently receive 15 000+ letters and emails voicing concerns and opposition and imagine that we could all so easily forget and move on, especially when nothing has been done to directly address our concerns by any of the political parties.
Of course, PR strategies are all about smoke and mirrors. Tell the public that controversy has dwindled and hope they will believe you while you shove all their letters/emails in a box and walk away. At least that is the hope.
But I think they underestimate the concerns we have for the children of this province, as well as how highly we value our freedoms and families.
We have been very busy since our #protectABkids campaign, embarking on an “educative process” of our own.
We’ve delivered hundreds of information packages to organizations across Calgary, Central Alberta and Edmonton. We’ve distributed tens of thousands of information flyers. We’ve been doing presentations, sharing articles on social media and writing on our websites. My last blog post has had more than 800 Facebook shares in 3 days.
Word is spreading.
And contrary to the hopes of Larissa Liepins, I can assure Albertans that there are now more thousands of people than ever across this province who do not think the Guidelines and Bill 10 are “a very good thing to support”.
We are on the countdown to our May 14th peaceful rallies. We are expecting combined numbers of thousands of people to join us from 2 – 4 p.m. at the Legislature (Edmonton) and McDougall Centre (Calgary)
Let’s continue to ensure our voices are heard about this very important issue.
We love our children. We love our province and all the diversity represented among the people who live here.
We want to work together with government officials to have our voices heard and our concerns addressed.
We believe that every student deserves a welcoming, caring, safe and respectful school environment.
(And please don’t hear what I didn’t say. I said every. That means all.)
In order to accomplish that goal, we believe that Bill 10 must be amended. And furthermore, we believe that any school board policies that take the risks of the Guidelines and make them into a reality must be brought back to the drawing board to ensure they are in line with legislation and nothing more.
To help ensure government officials do not have the impression that our concerns have “dwindled”, please consider any or all of the following options. These strategies will help show your support for the May 14th rally, whether or not you are able to attend in-person.
Most of us have already written detailed concerns and just need to send a friendly reminder to know those concerns still matter to us and we’re still waiting for those concerns to be addressed. If you haven’t written a detailed letter of your concerns yet, please do.
The message can be as simple as a subject line saying “I support the May 14th Parents for Choice in Education peaceful rally” and a message with a link to the www.parentchoice.ca website encouraging them to read more about our concerns.
2) Print out Donna Trimble’s excellent one page letter that provides an overview of concerns and invites people to explore the issue using resources on the PCE website. Please hand deliver it to your MLA’s office with an attached short message saying that you support the intentions of the PCE peaceful rally and hope they will familiarize themselves with the information provided at parentchoice.ca
3) Phone the Minister of Education’s office 780 427 5010 (toll free outside of Edmonton please dial 310 000 before the phone number). This one is essential. The receptionist’s job is to listen and then tally up the number of people who call about certain issues. Ask whether the Minister of Education is aware that Parents for Choice in Education is having a peaceful rally on May 14th. Let them know you support the rally and encourage the Minister of Education to read the materials on the website. I just made my call and let the receptionist know to expect many more phone calls. The more people who encourage Minister Eggen to review the materials, the better.
We must be vigilant, vocal and persistent in communicating our concerns in order to #protectABkids. Thank you to everyone who continues to advocate about this issue and please share this information with others – in person, through emailing the link and over social media. Every voice matters!