Help us fight religious discrimination against Alberta teachers...

If you ever needed a good reason to spread the word about our petition, you have to read this story. Alberta Catholic school trustees voted to send money-- taxpayer education dollars-- outside of Alberta to fight a court case for the right of a private business to discriminate against LGBTQ:

“They’re going to use public dollars to fight the public with public dollars – essentially on human rights issues. Which is, of course, completely mad,” Fevin said. Fevin objects to ACSTA spending the money on a case involving a private business that has “absolutely nothing to do” with K-12 education in Alberta.

We also need your help. Please Chip in $100 or whatever you can afford to help our next campaign: ending religious discrimination against Alberta teachers....

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What about the idea of "Permeation"?

In Alberta there is no constitutional grounds for “permeation”, as it is currently being practiced by many separate school jurisdictions.  Particularly since the adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, there is nothing that gives ‘permeation’ any status superior to the Charter.  Separate schools are as subject to the Charter as are public schools.....


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Here are six of my objections to separate school education

(If you would like to hear David on the Polticoast Podcast please skip 18 min in to hear his interview: )

Separate school education inflicts a financial cost we can no longer afford and an social injustice we should no longer tolerate. Here are my six objections:

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Twenty Years ago Newfoundland Voted to Unify Public & Catholic Schoolboards

One of the questions we have heard the most is, "Can it be done?" The answer is yes, and we point to Newfoundland, Quebec and Manitoba as examples of jurisdictions where citizens chose to put education first. Take a moment to listen to this CBC special on the unification of school boards in Newfoundland:

As Newfoundland Premier Brian Tobin said as they concluded their separate Catholic school system:

"We couldn't afford it," he said. "We weren't putting our money into providing the best education system for our children. We were putting our money into maintaining buildings — some of which were half empty — and busing people an hour away rather than letting them go to the school in their community because it wasn't a denominational fit."

1997: Twenty Years ago Newfoundland voted to get rid of their separate Catholic schools.

-The question posed in the 1997 referendum was this: "Do you support a single school system where all children, regardless of their religious affiliation, attend the same schools where opportunities for religious education and observances are provided?"

-A whopping 73 per cent of voters said yes. 

-Since the province's church-run school system was part of the Constitution, Newfoundland and Labrador needed a constitutional amendment in order for the change to go through. Canada's Senate passed the amendment in December of 1997.

-That same month, the Senate passed a very similar constitutional amendment for Quebec. It allowed Quebec to restructure its school system from a religion-based system to one organized along linguistic lines. 

-Today, only three provinces maintain a system of publicly funded separate schools (primarily Catholic) alongside their public secular systems - Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

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Separate School Education and the Constitution: what is the path forward?

As people consider the petition asking for a provincial referendum, we are getting questions about separate school education and the Constitution.

In Alberta, separate school education is a constitutional entitlement ( privilege).  It is called an entitlement to distinguish it from a “human right” since it is not something that all Albertans share on an equal basis.  It is not a 'right' within the meaning of the Charter of Rights.

In fact, separate school education probably violates the Charter of Rights, which is why Section 29 of the Charter protects separate school education from a legal challenge.  But section 29 does not protect separate school education from a constitutional amendment.

Constitutional entitlements are not chiseled in stone.  Constitutions change over time either by amendment or by new enactments, or by judicial decisions.  At one time Alberta did not own the natural resources under the ground.  That was changed by the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement Act, 1930.  At one time women were not recognized as persons when considering appointments to the Senate.  That was changed by a decision of what was then the supreme court of Canada.

The approved way of dealing with the issue is simple and straight forward, and it doesn’t take a lot of time.  It’s been done twice in the past 20 years.  In 1997 both the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the province of Quebec did away with denominational education.  In Newfoundland and Labrador the government acted on the outcome of a provincial referendum that strongly supported the creation of a single public school system and the end of seven denominational school systems.  In Quebec the National Assembly (Legislative Assembly of that province) acted without a referendum.  A referendum is optional for the government.

The bare bones of the procedure is simple.  The government drafts a resolution with an attached amendment to part of the provincial constitution (in our case, the Alberta Act, 1905).  The attachment contains the exact wording of the desired amendment.  If the resolution is adopted by the legislative assembly it is sent, with the attached wording of the desired amendment, to the Government of Canada.  The Government of Canada adopts the desired wording as it is put forward by the provincial government.

In 1997 Prime Minister Chretien imposed a “3-line whip” on the government caucus in both the House of Commons and the Senate.  His position was that education is the responsibility of the provincial government and a federal government is conscience bound to do what the provincial government wants done, unless what the province wants done is clearly contrary to the Charter of Rights or the basics of democracy.

Since the Government of Canada has enacted amendments for both Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec dealing with the end of denominational education, it is probably safe to assume that the Government of Canada would enact a similar amendment if Alberta asked for it.

The challenge is not the constitution.  The challenge is to determine what is best for Alberta at the beginning of the 21st century and, if that is unification of the two systems, the next challenge is to encourage the government to find the political will to do what the public wants done.  (As a famous French politician once said, “The people, the people, where are the people?  I must find them, for I am their leader.”)

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We just broke the 1000 signature mark in 48 hours...

This morning, Premier Notley told reporters that the NDP has no plans to scrap Catholic education system despite the (now international) sex-ed controversy.....

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The Future of Separate School Education -- an Important Conversation

The open letter (here) penned by retiring separate school trustee Patricia Grell has promoted an important conversation about the future of separate school education.  The letter has also brought into the open some misconceptions or misstatements that are promoted and shared by ecclesial leaders of the Roman Catholic Church....


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More Thoughts on "A Letter to the Electors/Tax Payers of Alberta"

Retiring school trustee Patricia Grell (Edmonton Separate) has written a heartfelt and provocative letter describing her disenchantment with the experience of being a Roman Catholic separate school trustee.  Ms. Grell is a committed, well-educated and well-informed person of the Roman Catholic faith.  She also has current, relevant and extensive experience.  All of this makes her open letter well worth reading, by all Albertans with an interest in excellent education for all students.

Basically, Ms. Grell speaks to three vitally important issues...

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What makes public education worth our commitment?

Two weeks ago I spoke to the 2017 Annual Congress of the Canadian School Boards' Association (CSBA).  (The text of my remarks can be found, here.)  Part of the message was about passionate advocacy on behalf of public education.

Advocates for public education must be able to describe unique characteristics that are vital to the well-being of the community in one way or another.  Mere distinctions, without meaningful differences, are of no use.

Hopefully, the characteristics we proclaim justify our passionate advocacy.  Personally, I find it hard to be passionate about "compulsory attendance", or "taxpayer funded", or "elected school boards".  There may be some basis for passion behind such descriptions, but it certainly isn’t obvious to the listener. I don’t feel it.

Here's what I offered 350+ trustees and senior executive staff from across Canada.




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Alberta's teaching profession and separate school education

Alberta’s teachers are represented by, and advance the interests of the teaching profession through, one of the most effective teacher associations in the world.  I have a high regard for the Alberta Teachers’ Association (A.T.A.), and I know that the Annual Representative Assembly is in session this weekend (May 20 – 22, 2017).  (The A.R.A. is the primary assembly for policy making, budget setting, and receiving important progress reports.)


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