Last-minute amendments made by the province's Conservative majority government to the parental rights option in Bill 44 do little to address concerns from the province's teachers, the president of the Alberta Teachers' Association, Frank Bruseker, said Wednesday.
The legislation giving Alberta parents the right to pull their children from classroom discussions about sex, sexual orientation or religion, moved to third reading early Wednesday after a debate which went on for hours at the Alberta legislature.
Teachers, school boards and human rights groups insist Bill 44 is misguided because the fear of facing a human rights complaint could put a chill on what is taught in the classroom. An amendment to further clarify the legislation isn't what teachers want, Bruseker said.
"Minister [Lindsay] Blackett says he has listened carefully to teachers. He has not been listening. Teachers and the education partners have called on the government to remove section 9 altogether from Bill 44," he said in a release.
Instead, the Stelmach Conservatives passed an amendment to revise the parental rights clause, which says parents can only pull their children from lessons about sexuality and religion that are in the curriculum. There will be no restrictions placed on casual classroom discussions that might arise about these topics.
During Tuesday's debate, opposition politicians tried unsuccessfully to get the Tories to remove the contentious parental-rights clause by proposing their own amendments. They were all voted down by Conservative MLAs.
"We are on the verge of creating the most poorly written and embarrassing example of human rights code in the country," New Democrat MLA Rachel Notley said.
'Still a democracy'
"I still simply cannot get it through my head why anybody would want to take away the joy of learning from any single person on the face of this Earth," Lethbridge Liberal MLA Bridget Pastoor said during the debate.
But the Tories dug in their heels on the issue, rarely taking the opportunity to respond to the opposition's arguments.
"It's up to the parents to raise the children, not the government, not the state," said Calgary Conservative MLA Jonathan Denis.
'I do think that this is probably much ado about little.' —Lloyd Snelgrove, Conservative cabinet member
At the end of the debate, Edmonton MLA Laurie Blakeman, the Liberals' house leader, said their efforts were not in vain despite the outcome.
"I think it's important that we did do it," she said. "This is still a democracy. There's still an obligation on behalf of the opposition parties to bring forward alternatives to what the government is doing and to hold them to account for the choices that they make."
Treasury Board president Lloyd Snelgrove, a member of the Conservative cabinet, said the government is moving forward with a responsible piece of legislation.
"I'm not a lawyer and I certainly wouldn't pretend to know how it will all shake out, but I do think that this is probably much ado about little," he said.
The legislation is expected to receive third and final reading by the end of the week.