Edmonton

Pastor battling LGBTQ school legislation slams PCs, Wildrose

The pastor who refuses to comply with government legislation and guidelines on gender identity and sexual orientation slammed Alberta opposition parties for taking a stand to protect “fundamental freedoms.”

'They don't have the courage to take a stand on any of these social issues'

Independent Baptist Christian Education Society board chair Brian Coldwell said they're doing the work of the "so-called opposition."

The pastor who refuses to comply with government legislation and guidelines on gender identity and sexual orientation is slamming Alberta opposition parties for failing to protect "fundamental freedoms."

"The so-called opposition parties, they don't have the courage to take a stand on any of these social issues," pastor Brian Coldwell, chair of the Baptist Christian Education Society which runs two private schools in Edmonton, said Tuesday.

"So it's up to the pastors and the parents and school principals. We don't have a real opposition right now that is willing to protect our fundamental freedoms."

We don't have a real opposition right now that is willing to protect our fundamental freedoms.- Brian Coldwell, chair, Baptist Christian Education Society

Coldwell also expressed frustration with the NDP government, saying his board has tried to meet with Education Minister David Eggen for more than a year to resolve the issues.

"But he's been really ignoring us," Coldwell said.

Last Friday, Eggen sent a letter to Coldwell demanding written assurance by Sept 16. of compliance with the Education Act, which requires school boards to allow gay-straight alliances within schools.

"And we're hoping that when we do submit the response to his letter, that I'll be able to hand deliver it to him and our board can meet with him," said Coldwell, adding his board needed to review the letter before he would comment on it publicly.
Interim PC leader Ric McIver said his party passed Bill 10 to make all children feel safe and welcome. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Coldwell criticized politicians of all stripes for the passage of Bill 10, which legislates GSAs, under the previous Progressive Conservative government.

"Now we have to go to the frontlines and deal with this because the politicians rushed this through the legislature without proper checks and balances and proper debate and consultation," he said.

Interim PC Leader Ric McIver defended his party's record.

"We passed Bill 10, which was intended to make all children feel safe, welcome and protected in schools," he said. "Now it's up to the current government and the schools and school boards to make that work, and I believe they can do it.

"The law of the land is the law of the land, and if there's a problem coming together on that then it's time to get together and talk."

McIver said "the education minister needs to stop negotiating in the media" over the issue. He suggested Eggen and Coldwell should "make time for each other to have a cup of coffee and have a conversation about how to work together."

Parental choice

In a written statement provided to CBC News, the official Opposition Wildrose party did not address Coldwell's criticism.

"Wildrose believes strongly in preserving an education system that supports parental choice and diversity across our province," wrote education critic MLA Mark Smith. "We believe school boards are responsible for creating policies that comply with our Education Act and the Charter to ensure all students are protected and feel safe."
Wildrose education critic Mark Smith said he is unaware of any school boards that are not complying with legislation.

Smith said the party is unaware of any cases of non-compliance by schools, but added "there should continue to be a collaborative and respectful discussion between school boards, parents and the ministry."

PC leadership candidate Jason Kenney did not respond to CBC's request for comment.

Despite the lack of political support, Coldwell said he has the support of Albertans. He said thousands of people turned up at Calgary and Edmonton rallies in mid-May calling for an amendment to the legislation requiring GSAs. 

He described media reports suggesting he was collaborating with opposition parties as "misinformation."

Asked whether he agreed with the provincial guideline advising schools to allow students to use the washroom congruent with their gender identity, McIver said: "Kids in school shouldn't have to wonder where they can go to the bathroom. Both the government and the schools should make sure that's not the case."

He added: "I think the child should go to the bathroom where they feel comfortable and safe."

andrea.huncar@cbc.ca   

@andreahuncar

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