I had the honour of being a guest speaker at the Southern Alberta Conference on the Family in Medicine Hat last weekend. Tremendous thanks to the organizers who provided the venue and volunteers, invited a diversity of community groups, and ensured the event was widely advertised and well-attended. The conference was a huge success!
Most appreciated is that the conference organizers recorded the presentations provided by myself, Donna Trimble, Executive Director of Parents for Choice in Education and John Carpay, President of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.
The resulting 1 hour 17 minute You Tube video is well worth your time to watch for an excellent overview of many major challenges facing Alberta’s education system today, along with practical actions you can take to strengthen your own families and to impact the political sphere.
After you have watched this video, please share it with others, including your family, friends, MLA, school board trustees and faith community leaders you may know.
We are at a critical juncture in our province right now and need as many people as possible to be informed and engaged on these key issues and challenges. Please help spread the word!
June 14, 2017
Dear Brian Jean,
On June 5th, 2017 I had the honour of being introduced in the Legislative Assembly by MLA Leela Aheer, Education Critic for the Wildrose.
The purpose of my visit was to witness the tabling of the hundreds of personally written and signed letters from across the province voicing concerns about the sexually graphic material that was found on a government-funded website for K-12 children.
But unfortunately those letters were not tabled.
Despite my immediate request that MLA Leela Aheer provide a public explanation as to why she reversed her commitment at the last possible moment, I have still not received a reply.
Furthermore, based on details regarding the documents which were tabled that day, there are concerns regarding inaccuracies which now exist in the official public record of the Legislative Assembly.
Given the gravity of the original concerns regarding sexually graphic material being provided to K-12 children, and now questions regarding misrepresentation of these concerns in the public record, I appeal to you to take further action.
Inaccuracies in the public record
According to page 50 of the official record from the Legislative Assembly, here is what MLA Leela Aheer tabled instead of the 700 individual letters that were originally promised:
Based on the above description, there are four critical questions which must be addressed:
1. My online change.org petition includes 2, 560 names as of today, June 14th, 2017. Yet MLA Aheer claims that she tabled a list of 2, 700 names over a week ago. Where did the extra 140 names come from?
2. Why did MLA Aheer decide to withhold the actual text of the petition and submit only the list of names to the public record?
There certainly aren’t any legislative rules that deem online petition text inadmissible as a document. In fact, only 6 days prior, the official records indicate that text from a different change.org petition was officially tabled on May 30th:
3. The official record states that the list of names supported an online petition “related to the Kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum re-write”. However, that description misrepresents the primary purpose of the petition signed by these 2, 560 people.
A more accurate summary would be “an online petition requesting Hon Mr. David Eggen, Minister of Education, to ensure accountability for organizations that directed children to sexually graphic material found on a government recommended website.”
Most troubling is that without the text of the petition submitted alongside the names, this inaccuracy can never be verified by the public record. How is it that an MLA can be permitted to submit a description to an official public record on behalf of thousands of Albertans that fundamentally misrepresents their concerns?
4. The official records state that only 5 letters were tabled “expressing concern over sexually graphic material linked from the Alberta.” Unfortunately, this number represents only 0.7% of the total letters photocopied and provided to MLA Aheer that she had committed to table that day. What about the other 695 Albertans whose letters were not submitted? On what basis were 5 deemed acceptable and the hundreds of others ignored?
These inaccuracies are an affront to the thousands of Albertans from across the province who signed the petition and wrote and mailed personal letters because they fundamentally misrepresent their concerns.
On behalf of these citizens, I respectfully insist that you:
1. Provide specific public answers to the first three questions I have asked regarding the inaccuracies in the documents which were tabled.
2. Personally speak to MLA Aheer and ensure she provides a public explanation as to why she did not follow-through on her commitment to table all the personally written letters that were mailed from across the province. Why only 5 letters and not the other 695?
3. Rectify the public record to ensure that the numbers and summary of the petition are corrected. If possible, ensure that the text of the petition is also attached and included with the list of names.
“On Your Side”?
Recently you have launched a new website to campaign for Premier.
Does your slogan “on your side” apply to the thousands of Albertans who have had their signatures publicly mispresented in the public record? And what about the hundreds of people who invested significant time and effort to write and mail personal letters of concern, 99.3% whose voices have now been ignored and dismissed by your party? Are you really on their side?
Why is it that you publicly supported the Wildrose being represented at the Pride Run and Walk event this past weekend, knowing this event specifically raised money to support iSMSS– the same organization which directed children to links for sex toys, BDSM and advice to pay for pornography?
Today you publicly denounced your own members for what you deemed “hateful and intolerant” comments. Will you also publicly denounce the individuals and organizations who unapologetically provided sexually graphic material to school children?
Your website says “In the midst of unprecedented challenges facing Albertans, Brian has always had our back.”
However, the question must be asked: do you actually have the backs of thousands of citizens who are deeply concerned for the safety and care of children in schools?
If so, then I invite you to showcase your leadership capabilities and demonstrate through meaningful action that you will resolve these profoundly important questions and concerns and demonstrate your care for the safety of children in this province.
Please provide a written response prior to June 21st, addressed to the thousands of Albertans who signed the petition and wrote letters, that explains why their voices of concern are not being accurately represented and addressed by your party in our Legislative Assembly.
Your letter will be posted publicly on my blog and change.org petition in order to inform Albertans of your response.
Thank you for your time.
Theresa Ng, on behalf of concerned citizens across the province of Alberta
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.
As many of you know, I had the opportunity to meet with MLA Leela Aheer, Education Critic for the Wildrose, just over a week ago. I applaud MLA Aheer for demonstrating genuine care for the safety of children through both words and meaningful action.
On the afternoon of Monday June 5th, MLA Aheer will be introducing me as a guest in the Legislature and then submitting the 3 inch stack of our photocopied letters as an official tabled document to the Legislature.
You can watch livestreaming from the Assembly website starting at 1:30 p.m. Introduction of guests is near the beginning, followed by Question Period and then the tabling of documents. For those unable to watch the livestream, there should be a video available on the Legislature website later in the week.
I will be inviting the media to cover the story, including Global, CTV, Edmonton Journal, CBC, Life Site, the Rebel, Danielle Smith from News Talk 770 and Lighthouse News.
Progress toward meeting with Minister of Education
I continue to work toward re-scheduling a meeting directly with the Minister of Education, David Eggen. In the meantime, I have been invited to meet with David Eggen’s Chief of Staff on Tuesday.
Please continue to phone Minister Eggen’s office (780 427 5010) and let him know that it is essential he makes time to personally meet together to address this important topic as soon as possible.
Southern Alberta Conference on the Family
For anyone in southern Alberta next weekend, I invite you to attend the Southern Alberta Conference on the Family in Medicine Hat, taking place on Saturday June 10th. I am honoured to be one of the guest speakers, along with John Carpay, President of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, and Donna Trimble, Executive Director of Parents for Choice in Education. The conference is free but requires pre-registration. All details and registration forms are available on their website.
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 email@example.com
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.
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!
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
Leader of the Official Opposition, Brian Jean:
780 427 1031, email@example.com
Wildrose Education Critic, Leela Aheer:
780 422 0315, firstname.lastname@example.org
Progressive Conservative Education Critic, Dave Rodney:
780 415 1325, email@example.com
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.
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!
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.