The growing rift between Catholic school trustees and the province over guidelines supporting LGBTQ students has former education minister Dave King renewing his call to end the separate school system in Alberta.
"This current conflict just makes clear that there are all kinds of problematic outcomes that result from us continuing separate school education," he told Edmonton AM's Mark Connolly. "It isn't necessary."
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Education Minister David Eggen has given the province's 61 school boards until March 31 to come up with policies to support and protect students, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.
But Catholic religious leaders have been very public in their denunciation of the guidelines.
King said it's clear there is confusion over who has the last say when it comes to the separate school system
"When we refer to Roman Catholic separate schools — that's certainly their legal name — we sometimes think the name Roman Catholic means they are owned by the Catholic church."
But that's not the case, he said.
The separate school system is a civil institution and therefore trustees are responsible to their electorate and then to the minister of education, King argues.
"In law, the bishop has no constitutional, no legal, no financial, no fiduciary responsibility for separate schools," he said.
"He's certainly free to offer trustees advice, but they're not under any obligation to follow the advice."
The separate school system is an anachronism, King said.
When Alberta and Saskatchewan became provinces, the federal government of Wilfrid Laurier imposed on them the same education system as that of Ontario and Quebec, even though the territorial government of 1904 had urged a single public system.
Quebec has since left the idea of a separate school system behind, leaving only Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario with separate boards, he said.
"I just don't see any reason that we would maintain a separate school system in the 21st century, because of the outcome of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759," King said.
Canadian society is much more sophisticated than it was at the turn of the century, he said.
"We're an integrated adult society, we should be an integrated student society in my opinion."
King served as MLA for Edmonton-Highlands from 1971-1986 and education minister from 1979-1986.