Thank you to MLA Leela Aheer for her kind words of introduction welcoming me as a guest in the Legislature this afternoon. I have included a transcript and video below:
It is also with pleasure that I am going to introduce to you Theresa and Daniel Ng. Theresa is the parent who brought our attention in the inappropriate links the provincial GSA coordinator website. Her vigilance in advocacy resulted in the links being removed from the website. I would like to congratulate Theresa for her efforts on behalf of all Albertans. We owe her a debt of gratitude for her careful attention. Later today I will be tabling the names of 2, 700 of those Albertans who stand for the protection of all children. With Theresa today is her son Daniel. I thank Theresa for bringing Daniel to remind us all in this Assembly that it is the children like him who are impacted by many of our decisions and the actions of our government. I will – I would hope that potentially the Minister will have the chance to meet with Theresa regarding her concerns. I would ask Daniel and Theresa to please stand and receive the traditional warm welcome of the Assembly.
While I am grateful for the kind words of public acknowledgement, I did also feel a sense of disappointment.
According to legislative protocol, five copies of any document or report are required in order to officially table them in the Assembly. Because MLA Aheer made a commitment to table the letters, my husband and I spent several hours this weekend making the requisite five copies.
Impressively, that amounted to over 3,500 sheets of paper which towered over a foot and a half tall! I couldn’t help but think about the strong visual statement that stack of paper would make when all those boxes were placed on a table in the Legislative Assembly.
However, at the last minute MLA Aheer unfortunately decided not to table the stack of personally written and mailed letters. Instead she chose to table the list of names of people who had signed my online petition – all five copies which fit into a small box.
While I appreciate that something was tabled in recognition of these widespread concerns, I was surprised and disappointed that these plans changed without any notice or explanation.
Obviously if my husband and I had known that only the petition would be tabled then we would not have invested many hours of time, as well as our own financial expense, to prepare five copies of all of those hundreds of letters.
I didn’t have a chance to touch base with MLA Aheer personally, but sent an email to her assistant later this afternoon asking that MLA Aheer provide an official written response which I could provide publicly as to why the letters were not tabled.
The fact remains that a commitment was made to table the letters and then that commitment was withdrawn with little notice or explanation. I know several people who watched the livestream this afternoon and have already expressed their disappointment that their personal letters were not officially submitted as expected, especially because the letters were so emotional and difficult to write for many people.
I can’t help but wonder:
Why is it so difficult for people’s voices to be heard?
Why are these hundreds of personal voices of concern not admissible to the public record, either through our elected representatives or the media?
I was chatting with some of the other guests in the public gallery. We were talking about what brought us there. I showed them the binders of letters and then I showed them some of the content I had found in March through the community support links which had been offered on the GSA Network website.
The people I was speaking with were appalled and shocked. When I told them that no apology had been provided and that the same people were still being entrusted with authority and influence over children in schools they couldn’t believe it.
That exchange was the most valuable part of my day because it reminded me why I will continue to do what I can to ensure that there is proper accountability. Our children deserve no less.
A summer commitment
Today is supposed to be the last day of Spring Session, meaning that MLAs will soon be heading back to their own constituencies and will not formally return to the Legislature until Fall Session, scheduled to begin October 30.
The good news is that MLAs will be attending and hosting community events throughout the summer. Brian Jean and others seeking leadership of the potential new united conservative party will be busy touring the province trying to garner support. School board trustee candidates are also starting to campaign, gearing up for October municipal elections.
I encourage you to attend events and specifically ask our elected representatives, as well as candidates seeking election, questions about education in this province. On this particular topic, ask them:
What should be done when a teacher, presenter or any person in a position of authority within our school system is discovered to be directing children to sexually graphic material, including content describing sex toys, images of nudity and videos of people engaging in sexual acts?
Indeed, any MLA/trustee who will not publicly denounce such behaviour is complicit in allowing it to continue.
We need to make education of children in this province a top priority. We need to let these politicians know that our votes depend on them taking meaningful actions to address these legitimate concerns being voiced by so many people.
No matter how many disappointments, obstacles and roadblocks, our politicians need to understand that these issues must be a top priority deserving of their time and attention.