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Opponents of Alberta’s Bill 44 set to rally

Bill threatens lessons on sexuality

Opponents of Alberta’s Bill 44 are teaming up on May 26 for a rally and press conference at the provincial legislature.

Organizers say the event is particularly important for queers, because the government has touted the bill as a leap forward for gay rights, but in reality, it would threaten lessons on sexuality and sexual orientation in the province’s schools.  

The gathering is an attempt to “ally those who should be concerned,” says Mike Gray, a co-presenter for Tuesday’s event and the communications chair of the Alberta chapter of the Centre for Inquiry. The Centre for Inquiry is a nonprofit group committed to promoting skeptical, secular, rational and humanistic enquiry.

Brought forward by Culture and Community Spirit Minister Lindsay Blackett, Bill 44 would allow parents to opt their children out of lessons on religion, sexuality or sexual orientation. For example, parents could pull their kids out of a sexual health education class if it includes lessons about queer health.

A number of groups and politicians have lined up in opposition, including NDP MLA Rachel Notley and Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman, and groups such as the Alberta Teachers’ Association, the College of Alberta School Superintendents and the Alberta School Board Association. They see Bill 44 as a slippery slope that will entitle parents to bring their closed mindedness to the classroom.

The bill was first sold to the public by Alberta’s ruling Progressive Conservative Party as a leap forward, heralding the full inclusion of sexual orientation in the Human Rights Act (something ordered by the Supreme Court of Canada over 11 years ago). But the controversial parental rights clause has drawn fire.

Gray is hoping that Tuesday’s event will open people’s eyes to dangers of Bill 44 and the line of thinking that it inspires. “The bill could have some positive effects but those are outweighed by the scary loopholes and opportunities the amendment opens up,” he says.

As a member of Calgary’s gay community, Gray often finds himself having to explain why Bill 44 — which has been touted as a great thing for Alberta queers — is a step in the wrong direction. “We are being used as a pawn, we are getting nothing out of this but it is being seen as a meaningful human rights win for us.”