Catholic school sex-ed plan as advertised won't ever be taught, premier says
'Under no circumstances will we ... condone a sexual health curriculum that normalizes an absence of consent'
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says an alternative sex education curriculum being crafted by Catholic school officials will never be taught if it arrives as previously advertised.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Notley says the health and well-being of students comes first.
"Nowhere do the rights of religious freedom extend to that person's right to somehow attack or hurt others — and that's what's happening here," Notley said Tuesday. "We will not use public dollars to have sexual health programs that deny science, that deny evidence, and that deny human rights.
"They can continue to work on (the proposal) all they want, but we ultimately approve the curriculum that goes into schools — and this kind of curriculum will not happen."
Karl Germann, president of the Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta, could not be reached for comment.
The Alberta government is currently rewriting teaching plans across the board for kindergarten to Grade 12.
Catholic school superintendents are crafting an alternative sex education curriculum that they want the province to approve for their schools.
They say the government's teaching plan clashes with faith-based instruction by including, among other topics, homosexual relationships and gender identity different from one's biological sex.
In documents filed with the province, the superintendents also take issue with sexual consent by a partner in marriage.
They say it is only one of many factors to be considered along with morality, family and wellness.
Notley said consent is paramount and there is no debate.
'Consent is the law'
"Consent is the law in Alberta and under no circumstances will any child in Alberta be taught that they have to somehow accept illegal behaviour in a sexual relationship. The end."
Notley said her government respects the role of parental choice in education.
"Parents have the right — and they have had the right for a very, very long time — to pull their kids from curriculum and
education around sexual health. And they will continue to have that right," she said.
"But under no circumstances will we enforce or condone a sexual health curriculum that normalizes an absence of consent, refuses to talk about contraception and other things that protect the health of sexually active young people, or in any way marginalizes sexual minorities. That's not on."
Education Minister David Eggen echoed Notley's remarks, particularly around consent.
"There's no (room for) negotiation for that, I can tell you," Eggen said in Calgary Tuesday. "Teaching consent is a basic health and safety issue for students in regards to sexuality, and it needs to be strengthened if anything."
Notley's government plans to introduce legislation in the fall legislature sitting to strengthen protections for minority students.
Private schools resistant
It would compel all schools that receive public money to establish anti-discrimination codes of conduct, adopt policies to protect LGBTQ students, and to affirm students' legal right to set up gay-straight alliances.
Eggen has said many schools have been working with the province on such rules, but 20 of them, mostly private institutions, have been resisting.
Private schools get 70 per cent of their funding from the government.
Eggen has said the bill is also aimed at blunting a proposal from United Conservative leadership candidate Jason Kenney that school officials tell parents when their children join a gay-straight alliance, so long as it doesn't bring harm to the youngster.
Advocates say there is no way to be sure that a child wouldn't be ostracized or face harm. Eggen said the legislation will make it clear the decision remains with the student.