We recently remembered the thousands of men and women that died, those thousands injured, and those who participated in several wars to preserve our freedoms.
One of those freedoms that these sacrifices were made for was religious freedom — the freedom to assemble and believe in many diverse ways, and to not interfere in another’s religious participation.
Sadly we have forgotten this history and there is no longer a commitment by our government to religious freedom.
They are using a stealth approach by changing what appears to be innocuous language in legislation and then adopting regulations (where there is no discussion) that remove religious rights.
In 2016 I wrote a letter to the editor supporting Bishop Henry when he seemed to be standing alone in opposing the provincial LGBTQ guidelines that included Catholic Schools, as they were a clear violation of Catholic principles.
He became “prey”, castigated by the press, education ministry, public schools and special interest groups, as archaic and narrow-minded.
I said that we remain silent at our peril.
That has come to pass in the intervening years.
We have the publicly-funded Cornerstone Christian School defunded because they were not allowed to use certain Bible verses in their Mission statement or Safe and Caring Schools policy.
Now this year, all private Christian schools must not state their beliefs that God is the supreme authority, or that the Bible, God’s Word, is the truth.
These are fundamental to the very core of a Christian school’s existence. And just recently the Catholic bishops, who had been working for a year with Alberta Education on the new sex education curriculum, were told by the minister that they could not teach their perspective along with the Alberta curriculum.
This new curriculum will also extend to private Christian schools and homeschoolers as well.
Even Lisa Corbella of the normally left-wing Calgary Herald labelled this attack on religious schools as a violation of the Charter (Calgary Herald, Oct 3, 2018).
On the elimination of the word “truth”, she says, “…schools must teach only relativism, no absolutes are allowed, otherwise, those schools will not find favour with Eggen (Education Minister) and his comrades in the NDP.”
This violation of religious freedom extends to the Children’s Services ministry as well. CBC News (posted May 2, 2018) reported that an Alberta Christian family had their adoption application initially rejected because of traditional views of sexuality, views also held by Jewish people and Muslims.
The decision was only reversed after the couple sought a judicial review.
Another foray into this area is Bill 22, Children’s Services amendments, which has just passed second reading and is set to become law in early 2019.
It has a misleading title: An Act for Strong Families building Strong Communities. It is anything but.
It emulates Wynne’s failed Ontario agenda to define the family in weaker terms so that Government can more easily intrude into the family unit to enforce its own ideas.
It makes an unnecessary and subtle wording change. instead of the current “the family is the basic unit of society and its well-being should be supported and preserved”, the amendment reads “the child’s family has the primary responsibility for the safety and well-being of the child”.
This sounds similar good for families, but in legal terms, it is not. The former indicates that the family predated society is the building blocks of society and has precedence.
The latter makes it easier for the government to intervene, as in Ontario where the minister said “In my mind, that is abuse” when a parent said “no” to a child’s argument on gender identity.
This NDP government is determined in its remaining mandate to implement legislation and policies that seriously infringe on everyone’s freedom of religion, despite the Alberta and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Constitution, and the United Nation’s Children’s Rights Convention, to which Canada is a signatory.
These all give precedence to the family and their faith.
Once again, if we believe in religious freedoms and the family rights of parents, we remain silent at our peril.
It is time to let the Children Services Minister Danielle Larivee, Premier Rachel Notley and our MLA know about our concerns with Bill 22 by emailing or writing a letter.
Contact information is on the government website at www.alberta.ca/contact.cfm.