Bill 24 offers illusion of freedom
Bill 24, which passed into law on Nov. 15, makes children kings and queens. Schools are their castles, safe spaces from parental authority, and school staff their servants and advisers.
Bill 24 demands school principals “immediately grant permission” for any “voluntary student organization” (i.e. club) or any “activity” (i.e. presentations, plays, pride days, social events, etc.) that is “intended to promote a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that respects diversity and fosters a sense of belonging.”
The bill also requires principals to designate a staff member to “facilitate the establishment” of the club or to “assist in the organizing of” the activity. If no staff member is available, the principal must find some other “responsible adult” to do it — no qualifications for said “adult” are specified. This is just one of the ways this bill is convoluted.
Bill 24 is called “An Act to Protect GayStraight Alliances.” But with all the talk of GSAs, it’s easy to overlook the sheer breadth of the bill’s requirement for immediate approval of anything intended to promote a welcoming school environment. Intended by whom? The student(s) requesting it. But the law places the burden of compliance on principals, meaning principals must become judges of whether a student’s intentions for a requested club or activity are right and good according to Bill 24.
Will a request for an extracurricular presentation on native spirituality and a request for a presentation on Catholic theology of the body both be immediately approved by a public school principal? If the student in both cases intends to use the activity to foster understanding of and respect towards those who hold such beliefs, the answer should be yes. Or how about a club intended to overcome caricatures of people who hold pro-life beliefs and facilitate dialogue between pro-life and pro-choice students? Or a club inviting fellow students to discuss a Christian understanding of sexual ethics? If all such should be approved if well intentioned, then this bill may turn out to be a boon for dialogue about difficult philosophical, religious, ethical and political issues. But I doubt that is what this government intends.
Bill 24 starts broad, but then focuses in on just one thing: GSAs. It mentions no other clubs or types of clubs. While advocates of Bill 24 like to say it is just about protecting student-created safe spaces for students of any gender identity or sexual orientation to socialize, the reality is that GSAs form part of a far-flung activist network: for Alberta, see Hence the singling out of this particular club name for special mention and protection. The Alberta GSA Network, its website and resources and ally organizations, are not created by students. Sure, gathering for pizza and games and conversation may be most of what any given GSA does. Obviously, that is not what parents are concerned about. And frankly, as a talking point, the pizza-and-fun bit gets a bit insulting after a while.
What has parents concerned? Bill 24 prohibits telling parents or anyone else (even board members) anything about these clubs or activities beyond the fact of the establishment of the club or the holding of the activity. “Studentinitiated” clubs or activities are also exempted by Bill 24 from the School Act’s requirement to notify parents when “subject matter deals primarily or explicitly with religion or human sexuality.” As the Opposition rightly pointed out, if such subject matter never comes up through student clubs and activities, there would be no reason to shield them from the requirement to notify parents.
It is a recognized principle of international law — and the law of Canada and Alberta — that parents have
the right to direct the religious and moral education of their children. Not the state. Totalitarian states claim that authority and try to take over that role. What Alberta’s government has done, cleverly, is create a supposedly studentcontrolled conduit for the ideology of the new sexual revolution, shielded from parental oversight. But students do not develop views on human sexuality, gender and sexual ethics in a vacuum. The idea here is plainly that students be encouraged to adopt the ideological framework of the Alberta GSA Network and similar organizations. Millions of Canadians reject such a framework.
Bill 24 is supposedly about keeping students safe within school walls from parents with “traditional” views about sexuality, gender and sexual ethics — backwards, dangerous views, we are supposed to believe. The bill gives students the illusion of freedom in exploring their sexual identities, freedom from parental supervision, guidance and authority. But determining one’s identity free of any moral or philosophical framework is impossible. Every one of us evaluates our feelings and thoughts through a belief system.
So while parents are shut out behind gates marked “Bill 24,” inside castle walls, select school staff and third parties offer “resources” and “support” to students in line with progressive sexual ideology. That ideology tells children to embrace various sexual predilections or inner fantasies as good and identity-defining. It is designed to replace other beliefs, such as that sex has a purpose and proper context within marriage, or that gender is essentially binary. They emancipate children from their parents’ beliefs, but inevitably inculcate them with their own. Meanwhile, they flatter students that they alone determine their identity and how it should be expressed. Parents, I hope, know better. John Sikkema serves as Legal Counsel for the Association for Reformed Political Action, based in Ottawa.