About 350 homeschooling parents and their children protested changes to the Education Act in front of the Alberta Legislature March 5. Photo by Ramon Gonzalez

Alberta homeschoolers fear intrusion on their rights

By  Ramon Gonzalez, Canadian Catholic News
  • March 21, 2012

EDMONTON - Like homeschooling parents across Alberta, Maria Blunt believes the new Alberta School Act has the potential to undermine her freedom to teach her four children what she believes.

“I value the freedom of home education and to teach what I wish to teach but (the act) does limit our freedom as far as our values go,” the Sherwood Park woman said.

“I want to be able to teach that the homosexual act itself is a sin, but (with the legislation in its current form) there is a potential that I would not be able to.”

Speakers from the Alberta Home Education Association are calling on Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk to remove from section 16 of the act the requirement to make education conform to the Alberta Human Rights Act. They also demanded that home education be taken out of the definition of school so that homeschooling parents maintain their rights.

“We need section 16 changed or we need home education exempted from section 16 of the Education Act,” said Patty Marler, government liaison for the Alberta Home Education Association.

“We want these (words) taken out so we don’t have to fight later. We want to maintain these abilities to be the parents to our own children.”

Earlier this month, about 350 homeschooling parents — including Blunt — and their children gathered at the Alberta Legislature to protest changes to the Education Act that they say undermines the rights of parents over the education of their children.

The wording in section 16 of the proposed act says all curriculum, all programs of studies must incorporate the Alberta Human Rights Act.

“Home educating my children is not a 9 to 5 kind of thing. It’s all day long. It’s a lifestyle,” Marler said.

“So in order for me to incorporate the Alberta Human Rights’ Act within my education means that the Alberta Human Rights’ Act is now in my home all the time and that I have to put my own values aside. My beliefs, the parental autonomy that I have in my home is now taken away. This is the reason why we want the wording (of the act) changed.”

Tony Sykora, president of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association, said the association generally looks at Bill 2, the Education Act, in a positive manner, although he said the language could be strengthened to support Catholic schools. The ACSTA, Sykora said, has submitted several amendments to the act of a “technical nature.”

Asked if he is concerned Bill 2 will restrict the right of Catholic schools to teach the Church philosophy on homosexuality and the sinfulness of homosexual acts, Sykora said: “We continue to value all children as having the face of Christ and we go to great lengths to include all of them.”

Blunt believes in equality, tolerance and respect for everybody but said integrating human rights legislation with education is a bad mix.

“The act has the potential to limit our freedom,” she lamented. “At the moment it doesn’t, but it has the potential to do that so I wanted to make sure I’m counted in the numbers.”

Candice Tucci, an Edmonton homeschooling mother of four, is convinced Bill 2 will restrict her rights as a parent.

“With those new regulations anything we say within our home will go against what the government would want us to do. We’d have to have the religion of the government, not our own religion. We would like to maintain our religious freedom so we can teach our Catholic faith at home.”

Lukaszuk assured homeschooling parents at the rally that the act will not restrict their rights to teach their children according to their own values.

“I have no agenda to diminish your rights as parents to determine what is right for your family at home,” he said. “We will not pass legislation that we believe in any way undermines your rights as parents.”

(Western Catholic Reporter)

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