Thank you St. Albert MLA Ken Allred for bringing the legalities of public and separate education to light in the legislature on March 13 during second reading of Bill 4.
He read directly from the Alberta Act, which states separate and public schools may only provide 30 minutes of non-compulsory religious instruction at the end of the day. Mr. Allred rightly stated that if the Alberta government simply required the public Greater St. Albert Catholic school division (GSACRD) to comply with the law, the issue would be resolved.
There is no need for a bill. Alberta Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk wrote, in a letter to me, dated Nov. 11, 2011: “As a public board, the Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division (GSACRD) is obligated to serve the interests of all its electors regardless of faith.”
Mr. Lukaszuk clarified this by writing, “its rights and privileges are no different than those of any other public school board. It does not have constitutionally protected, minority faith-based education rights.”
Why is permeation permitted to occur when the limits to religious instruction in both public and separate schools is so well defined? And why is GSACRD being rewarded with separate school status for defying constitutional law and permeating religious instruction? I’m baffled.
Alberta school board policy decisions regarding the specific religious practices in schools are also bound by Sec. 50 (2) of the School Act. School boards must allow students and parents the ability to opt out of religious instruction and exercises. Morinville children and parents were formally denied this right more than a year ago and the minister of education still has not overturned the public board’s decision.
I applaud MLA Ken Allred for demonstrating courage and ethics in the legislature, presenting the specifics of the law that have been forgotten, or worse, ignored and having it documented on Hansard. The solution to Morinville education would be to stop ignoring the opt-out clause, evading the limitations on religious instruction required of all Alberta schools and follow the law.
Carol Sparks, Edmonton