A controversial Alberta bill will enshrine into law the rights of parents to pull their children out of classes discussing the topics of evolution and homosexuality.
The new rules, which would require schools to notify parents in advance of "subject-matter that deals explicitly with religion, sexuality or sexual orientation," is buried in a bill that extends human rights to homosexuals. Parents can ask for their child to be excluded from the discussion.
"This government supports a very, very fundamental right and that is parental rights with respect to education," said Premier Ed Stelmach.
Although Stelmach has confirmed the bill will give parents the authority to exclude their kids from classes if the topic of evolution comes up, Education Minister Dave Hancock said it won't change anything.
"With respect to values, religion and sex education have always been areas of concern for parents, and they've always been areas parents have had the right to be notified about and to exempt their students from," Hancock said.
Debate over Alberta's international image
Frank Bruseker, the head of the Alberta Teachers' Association, is meeting with Hancock on Monday to raise his concerns.
"If parents don't want that kind of education for their children they have a couple of options," Bruseker said. "One would be home schooling or private school. So for a public school to start excluding based on religious preference, I think is a mistake."
'All they've done is make Alberta look like Northumberland and sound like Arkansas.' — Brian Mason, Alberta NDP leader
Bruseker said it would be difficult for teachers to avoid the topic of evolution in science or geography classes.
The proposed legislation has touched off a debate about just what kind of image Alberta's government is trying to create around the world.
NDP Leader Brian Mason likened the bill to Alberta recently using a photo of a British beach in an ad to promote the province.
"This government just spent $25 million of taxpayers money to give Alberta a new image. All they've done is make Alberta look like Northumberland and sound like Arkansas," Mason said.
The new legislation could be passed within a few weeks.