In the same week that the Alberta government debated and rejected Motion 503, Rob Anderson, Wildrose House Leader, made an emotional plea to put an end to name-calling—specifically “Lake of Fire Party” and “homophobe”.
It was a bizarre week. Here’s how it rolled out.
On Monday, Liberal MLA Kent Hehr brought Motion 503 to the House. He asked the government to make school boards develop policies to support students who wanted to set up gay-straight alliances (GSAs). Note: Motion 503 did not force school boards to create GSAs. It simply required school boards to support them with good policies if a group of students wanted to create a GSA.
The PCs and the Wildrose fell all over themselves trying to assure us that nobody was more anti-bullying than they were…then while extolling the virtues of GSAs they confirmed a school board’s right to kill them with impunity.
The similarities between the PC and Wildrose positions were unnerving. Both parties started with statements that sounded plausible but quickly degenerated into utter nonsense.
Motion 503 must die because…
The PC/Wildrose Brain Trust came up with five reasons to reject Motion 503. (Can you figure out which party proffered which argument?)
- LGBTQ students are already protected from bullying under the new Education Act. Perhaps, but the Education Act will not become law until 2015, what are these kids supposed to do in the meantime?
- The Motion singled out a specific group of students, potentially at the expense of others and “we can’t possibly legislate for each and every one of these groups.”* Actually we can and we must when the school boards responsible for “these groups” prevent them from protecting themselves against bullying.
- School boards are elected to make schools a safe learning environment. There is no room for government micromanagement. Wrong. The government must step in when school boards do not act in accordance with the Charter of Rights and Alberta Human Rights Act.
- Urban schools are different from rural schools and faith-based schools are different from public schools; what works in one school won’t necessarily work in another. All of these schools are publicly funded. Their size, location and curriculum are irrelevant; the real question is whether the fundamental rights of their students are violated.
- Forcing schools to “sanction” any organization that promotes concepts that contradict their “sincerely held religious belief” effectively protects the rights of one group by disrespecting the beliefs of another group.** Ahhh. Now we’ve come to the nub of the issue. This requires thoughtful discussion, starting with the question: should a faith-based school that denies a specific group of students their fundamental rights continue to receive public funding?
A few PCs break ranks
Not all PC MLAs voted the party line. Twelve MLAs, including potential leadership candidates Ken Hughes and Tom Lukaszuk, broke ranks and voted with the Liberals and the New Democrats in support of Motion 503.
Sandra Jansen, Associate Minister for Family and Community, provided evidence demonstrating the vulnerability of LGBTQ students: 64% of LGBTQ students feel unsafe in their own schools; a gay student is 5 times more likely to drop out of school than a straight student and a gay student is three times more likely to make a suicide attempt than a straight student.***
Unfortunately Ms Jansen was unable to move the majority of her colleagues. The Deputy Speaker called the vote and the Motion failed.
Which brings us back to Mr Anderson’s “can’t we be nice” speech.
What does bullying feel like?
On Wednesday, Mr Anderson, Wildrose House Leader, was visibly distressed when Human Services Minister Bhullar referred to the Official Opposition as “the Lake of Fire Party over there”. He objected when Dr Sherman, Liberal leader, challenged Premier Hancock to decide whether he was a “placeholder Premier or a real Premier who stands up to the homophobes in [his] caucus”. ****
Mr Anderson gave an eloquent speech, pausing frequently, his voice cracking as he explained to the House that some of the Wildrose caucus had gay and lesbian family members. Their families included visible minorities. He reminded the Assembly that the Wildrose party changed its policies to include protection of the rights of others regardless of race, religious belief, colour, gender, physical or mental disability, age, ancestry, marital status, income, family status or sexual orientation
He said: “I think that some people can imagine the hurt and the pain that it causes certain members in this House and their family members and friends when they are referred to as bigots and homophobes.”****
It was a poignant but hollow moment given that on Monday not one member of the Wildrose caucus joined the renegade PCs, the Liberals and the NDs to give LGBTQ students a way to protect themselves from the “hurt and the pain” caused by bullies in their own schools.
Not everybody is as resilient as k.d.lang or Rae Spoon, unique individuals who survived adolescence in Consort and Calgary to become internationally acclaimed singer-songwriters. Some LGBTQ students could use a little help; but in Alberta it’s all about politics, at least for 31 MLAs who killed the Motion and the remaining 37 who failed to show up
*Hansard, Apr 7, 2014, 362
**Hansard, Apr 7, 2014, 364
***Hansard, Apr 7, 2014, 367
****Hansard, Apr 9, 2014, 389, 390, 398
The political social scene in Alberta is almost worthy as a scene from a Beckett play.
Anon: perhaps Waiting for Godot? I recently learned that Beckett joined the French Resistance in WW2. There’s a thought.
Thanks for the clip. Constant Craving is one of my favourite k d lang pieces and fits this post in so many ways.
Bravo! Bravo! Thanks for sharing this wonderful analogy.
What plays out in democracy in Alberta – seems the actions do not follow the words.
When will they ever learn??
There seems to be a crack in the liberty bell – the light is starting to get in.
We need to continue to sing the protest songs – to clearly see the vision.
Bruce, it’s interesting that you mentioned protest songs. I’m noticing an uptick in 60s style protests–more demonstrations outside the Legislature and the sit-in by the seniors in Health Minister Horne’s constituency office was amazing. The protesters stayed until the police showed up and escorted them out around 2 a.m.
PS thanks for the Leonard Cohen clip!
Anon this neautiful song was actually used to make fun of K D Lang at the time. I remember reading in the Sun that it was no surprise she had constant cravings for meat. Bizarre.
I am sorry I meant beautiful song.
I wanted to encourage an edit for your writing and possible future writings in the spirit of inclusion. Can we include a 2S at the end of the LGBTTQ2S acronym? 2S stands for Two-Spirited and is the Indigenous reference in a person who can assume male or female roles. There is more to the concept, including 5 different genders. My hope is to start the Indigenous inclusion in this small way.
Thank you for your work!
Michelle I answered you too quickly yesterday, upon reflection what I should have said was this: Thank you for introducing us to this concept–it speaks to the complexity and beauty of love. 🙂
Taxpayer-funded Christian school forbids ‘homosexual relations’ Calgary Herald April 14, 2014
An Alberta school funded fully by taxpayers and answerable to a public board requires teachers to abstain from “homosexual relations” and warns students that the unjust risk everlasting torment in the “lake of fire.”
An opposition critic expressed shock Sunday that the Conservative government recently committed to spending $7 million to modernize and expand Prairie Christian Academy (PCA), despite the fact the Three Hills facility displays policies on its website that “fly in the face” of both the province’s human rights legislation and the country’s Constitution.
“Fifteen years after the Supreme Court outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, it is unbelievable this is still happening,” Liberal MLA Kent Hehr said.
“I am starting to question what oversight Minister Jeff Johnson and his education department are providing to the system.”
A private religious school founded more than seven decades ago, Prairie Christian Academy joined the Golden Hills School Division in 2003, a decision the school’s website says allowed it to get increased public funding.
While parents still pay nominal fees for religious education, the regular program of study, busing and even lease and utility costs are fully covered by the local board.
The K-12 school, located about 130 kilometres northeast of Calgary, is one of several dozen faith-based facilities that have become part of the public system since the province amended the School Act in 1988 to make the moves possible.
A concluding paragraph in PCA’s statement of faith, which all students in Grades 7 through 12 are required to sign, says the unjust will go to Hell and be subject to “everlasting punishment of conscious torment in the lake of fire.”…
Carol, the hypocrisy of the PC government on this issue is staggering. Education Minister Jeff Johnson told the House that the PC government absolutely supports gay-straight alliances, they do “fantastic work” and “we would love to have more of them” because they help promote healthy, respectful relationships and prevent bullying.
Mr Johnson referred to two tip sheets that are available on line as evidence of his department’s support of GSAs—Gay-Straight Alliances in Schools and Starting a Gay-Straight Alliance in Your School: A Tip Sheet for Students. Fat lot of good this is going to do anybody when the PC government refuses to curtail the power of school boards to kill student-led GSAs.
Isn’t it ironic that the PCs who made such an issue of the WR “lake of fire” candidate are now going to have to explain how they’ve allowed public funds to support “lack of fire” schools for years.
I get two clear conclusions after reading your article:
1) Thomas Lucaszuk is running for premier. He would never have voted for 503 unless he wanted to be premier. He knows that people are 30 years ahead of them and being gay is no longer an issue even in Alberta.
2) The Wildrosies, as I expected, changed the outside but their real beliefs are in the Neolithic period.
We better get used to this kind of atittude because Rob Anderson will soon be Minister of something.
I still remember clearly the pathetic way the Alberta Legislature rejected K. D. Lang because of who she is and the fact that she is vegetarian. Appaling display of hatred towards a talented person that represented our province with class and pride.
Carlos, you could have bowled me over with a feather when Lukaszuk supported the motion. If he wanted to play it safe he could have skipped the vote altogether. Many of them did, including Premier Hancock who said he would have voted in favour of the motion had he been there (hmm). Your comment about the WR is bang on. All they needed to do to demonstrate that they meant it when they passed those “supportive” policies last fall was to have at least one MLA vote in favour of the motion. This would have sent a nice message of support to the gay and lesbian family members of the WR MLAs that Ron Anderson referred to in his emotional speech two days later. The fact that they didn’t will really set them back in the next election.
In the word of a previous commenter, “their real beliefs are in the Neolithic period.”
Exactly! Some people are so close-minded. Don’t they realize that these are now settled issues. Don’t they realize the debate is over?
Fred I don’t think they realize the debate is over. Today’s Herald carried a story about the Prairie Christian Academy which threatens the staff with expulsion for homosexual relations. The school superintendent said he wasn’t aware of anyone being disciplined in his 3 years there, but noted that just like schools that teach French and require teachers fluent in French, “…our religious-based programming [requires] staff who have a fluency within that faith.” So now discrimination is a matter of “fluency”. Bizarre.
Bizarre is a good word Susan. As if members of Christian Schools have never been involved in Homosexual relations. In fact we all know who the largest group of children predators in the world came from. This makes me sick.
The WR does not support gays at all. They just say so in order to get elected. I would suggest to Danielle Smith to just be a real democrat and let people know exaclty what they stand for. Politics is more than ever a game of lies in order to attain power and entitlements. The new revelations about Alison Redford is a example of it and I do not for a minute believe that 80% of them are any different, they just do not have the opportunity. We need to include in our pseudo democratic process a council of the people with the only responsability of making sure these people behave within accepted norms. The Health contracts of 250 million is another example of money just flowing to friends and interest groups that support the PCs. This is what we know, never mind what we do not.
The positive side of all of this is that a new kind of politics is slowly developing and I believe it will force all these dinossaurs aside. Do not underestimate people’s resilience. This kind of politics has to go even if by force.
Carlos, Kent Hehr’s motion appears to have opened the floodgates. Today the PC caucus voted to amend a number of laws to change the definition of marriage to make it gender-neutral. The Justice Minister Jonathan Denis called this a simple “housekeeping” matter, in other words a tiny detail the PC government overlooked when the Supreme Court of Canada approved same-sex marriages in 2005. Oops, I guess 9 years late is better than never. Can you believe these guys?
Actually Susan, I was being a bit provocative, but the final bit of html link never showed up in the post, so the irony was lost.
The point I was trying to make was that Christianity based on the Bible has always held sodomy (which is the behaviour involved with male homosexuality, but the same holds true for the female equivalent) to be sinful so the only way this debate will ever be settled will be to suppress or eliminate the Christians…and Muslims….and Jews….and….well, you get my point.
Fred, I thought Trevor Loke put it really well. Trevor is a gay Christian who is suing BC’s Minister of Advanced Education for approving Trinity Western Law School. It’s a private evangelical law school that requires its students to sign a community covenant that prohibits same-sex relationships among its faculty and students. The school says it welcomes anybody—as long as they are celibate or a married man and woman. Loke says this is hypocritical. The issue for me is this: does the law school receive public funding from the province? If so, the Minister of Advanced Education and the law school violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the law school must (1) accept gay students or (2) rely solely on the private sector for its funding. You really can’t have it both ways.
Here’s the link: http://thetyee.ca/News/2014/04/16/Not-Welcome-at-School/
Yes, we have to see that direct or indirect exclusionary practices in schools lead to emotional distress, drop outs, reduced education, hatred., bullying, self harm and suicides. Knowing these issues, why should public funds be allowed to be used to create such harm? Religious self-righteouseness has histroically been dangerous, esp. to the “other”.
If religious schools want exclusive rights, they may wish to fund their schools 100% and face the consequences of failing their children in life in all manner of ways.
Savikin, you make a very important point about the damage the “lake of fire” dogma can inflict on young people. Dr Sherman provided some statistics to the Assembly. He said the levels of discrimination, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts at schools that had gay-straight alliances for three years or longer dropped by 50% when compared to schools without gay-straight alliances. Hansard, Apr 9, 390 The Education Minister says the new Education Act requires school boards to establish a “welcoming, caring, respectful and safe” learning environment. He also says that publicly funded school boards have the right to force students to sign a covenant that, if breached, results in banishment to the “lake of fire” for eternity…nope, there’s no way to reconcile those two concepts. The PCs should be ashamed of themselves.
Yes Susan 9 years during which they basically displayed an absolute disrespect of the Supreme Court and to the gay and lesbian community. Now that the boat is sinking and the entitlements and power are going to change hands, they are in a hurry to change everything. To me this shows me how cheap these people are. Not only Alison Redford, all of them. It is definitely time to pack and possibly go the way of the dodo. I am not even interested in their black box. Just sink. We will deal with Danielle Smith when time comes. If she thinks that the throne is just around the corner, she would better think twice because she will sink as fast as pricess Alison.
You’re absolutely right Carlos. I have friends in the Liberal, Green and ND parties who are so fed up with the PCs that they’re willing to see them replaced with the Wildrose party. And yes, they recognize that this will create issues, but they’re willing to risk it. Says something about how far the PCs have fallen, doesn’t it.
You might be amused by the response I got from the Wildrosies when I wrote to the folks in the house of corruption about their cowardice with reference to this non-binding motion. The letter is from a nice lady in the Ms. Smith’s office. The explanation she gave was that she was all for independence of public school boards which was such a joke since school boards have no power other than as hand puppets for the Tories.
As for Mr. Hancock, my MLA –he craftily failed to be present which allows him to be all pure and say that he would have supported the motion but he was too busy elsewhere. What was he doing? Was he skipping work? What do the MLAs do when they aren’t at the job site at the house of corruption? It is a good question. I wonder how many hours they actually work at the legislature and what they get in pay. In any case, Mr. Hancock took himself out of the Lake of Fire group and very easily too. The man is a very old school politician.
I responded to Ms. Whitney at the end of the e-mail by telling her I don’t believe her response.
to: Julie Ali <investigationsjyali@
date: Wed, Apr 9, 2014 at 3:02 PM
subject: RE: —Lake of fire issue Part II —————gay – straight alliances ——— non-binding Motion 503, urging “all school boards to develop policies to support students who want to lead and establish gay-straight alliance activities and organizations
Apr 9 (8 days ago)
Thank you for writing to share your thoughts on Motion 503. Wildrose commends the honourable MLA Kent Hehr for bringing it forward. However, Wildrose feels it misses the target and isn’t the best way to tackle the serious issue of bullying.
Nobody wants to see any child bullied or intimidated at school for any reason – race, religion, gender, social status or sexual orientation. When Motion 503 was debated in the legislature on April 7, 2014, MLAs of all parties agreed on this. Bullying is unacceptable in our classrooms and is unacceptable in our province.
Albertans believe school boards are in the best position to address bullying. School boards are elected to do that job and they should be permitted to address the issues voters elected them to do. Many Albertans felt that Motion 503 was too prescriptive and did not give local school boards the autonomy they need to address the particular circumstances they face in their schools with regards to ensuring safe and inclusive schools for LGBT students.
I would like to refer you to Wildrose Education Critic Bruce McAllister’s speech on Motion 503, attached, or available here: http://www.assembly.ab.ca/Documents/isysquery/66ec19cb-d282-4f9c-bfaf-7844b3dc8a02/1/doc/.
I hope you will share your thoughts, and feel free to stay in touch on this issue or any other concerns you may have.
Constituency Assistant to Danielle Smith, MLA
#5, 49 Elizabeth Street, Okotoks
From: Julie Ali [mailto:investigationsjyali@
Sent: Tuesday, April 08, 2014 11:21 PM
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Subject: —Lake of fire issue Part II —————gay – straight alliances ——— non-binding Motion 503, urging “all school boards to develop policies to support students who want to lead and establish gay-straight alliance activities and organizations….
Dear Ms. Smith,
I don't agree with the position taking by the Wildrosies with reference to motion 503 which was a non-binding effort. It suggests that all school boards develop policies. This motion isn't threatening at all and school boards would be free to do whatever the heck they wanted to do. Unfortunately the lake of fire issue (part II) surfaces yet again. I note that none of the Wildrosies supported this weak motion to allow our gay-straight children to meet and yap.
I don't know why the Wildrosies (and a significant number of PCs) are so weird on this issue. It maybe that the bible says this is a sin. And so what? If it is a sin for some folks that is their private business. But for the real world, sin doesn't seem to matter as evidenced by the blatant and unconscionable behavior of our political hires at all levels. Sp why is it we have our political hires do bad things and it is fine such as the former premier's trips to nowhere and the Senategate scandal that never ends but when our gay-straight kids are encouraged to meet and greet —in coalitions–this is a big no no?
Most folks don't care who loves what sex so long as there is love and not prejudice and hate. We are far more concerned about the matter of our children feeling the disreputable opinions of others (adults and kids) than we are about the dumb matter of what any religions sprouts off about sin. In my mind it is far more sinful to be sanctimonious and vote against such motions when we all know that the MLAs who voted in this way voted this way so as to ensure that they will get rehired by their stone age constituents.
We want our kids to be happy. If they want to love someone who is of the same sex–so what? Of course, this may offend some folks who are literal about the bible. But I think Jesus was far more liberal than you all are today. I think he said –to love each other. I think that counts more than all this crap about homosexuality.
Your party has already done the lake of fire part I deal. Why do the lake of fire part II deal now? If you were wise you would respect the wishes of parents like myself and support such motions. You should in fact, pull your party out of the dark ages–by force if necessary or you will never get the votes of city mummies like me.
I annoyed at my own MLA who did not show up to vote. I think Mr. Hancock was cowardly and didn't want to piss off the ancients in his constituency. Both you and Mr. Hancock should do the courageous thing of standing up for our most vulnerable children. No use telling us the dumb story about not interfering with school board independence since we all know school boards have no power and are entirely at the mercy of the provincial government. When the Tories say jump–all the school board trustees better jump and as high as they are asked to jump. I am sure you know all about the powerlessness of school boards since you were fired from one. The fact is that the school boards have no ability to raise money and so have no power. They are there for entertainment and to take the blame. When the Tories need to cut the budget the trustees get blamed and when the Tories want praise, they open a few schools and the trustees smile and join in with the show. It is a sham and you add to the sham by using the excuse of wanting the school boards to be independent entities. The only independence the school boards get –is to train up future MLAs–as you so plainly demonstrate to us.
Your work on the Calgary school board did serve some purpose. I think you might have some ability to lead a province. However until your party comes out of the dark ages with reference to sex and all matters related to it I doubt that your party will have more than rural backing.
I think you are bright and assertive. But you have to understand one other matter. It's all about emotions. Voters don't vote for bright and assertive leaders or else we would have turfed the dumb ass Tories long ago.
We vote for our families. We vote for folks who respect, protect and help our families. We don't vote for folks who trash rural Alberta families by calling them Wiebo Ludwig mummies and ignoring their problems with big oil. We do not vote for folks who poison our families as in the case of the Baytex company that has been allowed to fumigate the area where it works so that families become environmental refugees. And we certainly do not vote for folks who yap about our children ending up in lakes of fire because they are homosexual, lesbian or bisexual. We also don't vote for folks who prove to us –that they are prejudiced against these minority sexual groups by their complete refusal to support a non-binding motion that would have given our children the feeling that the adults in our society cared more for them than for their chances of becoming the next government.
Your failure to support motion 503 was shameful.
As was the failure of the rest of the Wildrosies. And don't think I missed the fact that the dumb ass Tories also joined with the Wildrosies to vote down this motion. Shame on you all!
But I guess it was the expedient thing to do.
Your constituents in rural Alberta probably are just as behind in this issue as this party is.
Until your party comes into the present with reference to these issues don't expect city critters to vote for your party or you.
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Lake of fire issue Part II ————-The proof of prejudice is evident in the voting patterns of PCs and Wildrosies———-Liberal MLA Kent Hehr introduced the non-binding Motion 503, urging “all school boards to develop policies to support students who want to lead and establish gay-straight alliance activities and organizations.” The motion failed 31 to 19, with all eight members of the Wildrose caucus present voting against the motion, along with 23 Progressive Conservative MLAs. The motion was supported by 12 PCs along with all of the NDP and Liberal MLAs who were present for the vote.——————–“I was extremely disappointed to see that not one member of the Wildrose party would vote for a non-binding motion and go on public record in support. There may be supporters in the party, but there comes a time to stand up and be counted,” said Kris Wells, director of programs and services at the University of Alberta-based Institute for Sexual Minority Studies. “That rightfully brings forth a lot of questions into people’s minds around … what really are the beliefs of the Wildrose party. Have they changed from those infamous lake of fire comments?” Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith defended her caucus Tuesday, saying they were persuaded by arguments put forward by Education Minister Jeff Johnson, who said local school boards already have the ability to deal with bullying. “I would have voted against the motion as well, because I see this as very much an issue of local control, local autonomy for our school boards,” Smith said. “It’s very clear that our school boards are taking seriously the issue of bullying across the board, including gay and lesbian students.” The party and Smith faced heavy criticism when a blog post surfaced during the 2012 provincial election that was written by candidate Allan Hunsperger that said gays and lesbians would be condemned to a “lake of fire.” Since then, the Wildrose has softened its image, stripping away controversial firewall policies and adopting planks encouraging the reduction of greenhouse gases and affirming equality. NDP Leader Brian Mason blamed both the Wildrose and the PCs for the motion’s failure. “While the Wildrose did as expected and voted against it, showing that they haven’t changed in the way they’ve been claiming to, the government members that were present vote two to one against the motion … Had they voted the other way, the motion would have passed,” Mason said. Liberal Leader Raj Sherman put the blame squarely on the government. “It’s clear that the PC government teamed up with the Wildrose to defeat a motion that would protect our children in our schools,” he said.
My response to the letter from the nice writer from Ms. Smith's office— was brief (unlike my first e-mail to the entire group).
Julie Ali <investigationsjyali@
Apr 9 (8 days ago)
School boards need direction from our elected representatives to ensure that –in less than accommodating schools–there is a positive and encouraging environment for gay children.
I do not believe the response you have given me.
I suggest that Ms. Smith actually support this motion which was non-binding and this would be enough of an incentive for mummies like myself to consider the Wildrosies versus the Liberals.
I am sure you understand that I am a Progressive Conservative voter but not of the sort of rubbishing governance we have endured.
I do not believe the words without the acts.
I no longer believe performance without evidence of performance.
I want investigations of the current government with any new government we elect.
Give us acts.
Then we might follow your MLAs.
Julie, thank you so much for passing along your letters to the WR and their reply. I’m not sure which “Albertans” Ms Whitney was referring to (it sounded like all of them) who believe that this is an issue for the school boards and not the government but she’s wrong. Furthermore, even the government doesn’t believe bullying is an issue that is the sole preserve of school boards. If it did, the government would not have included anti-bullying language in the new Education Act would it.
The PC government is continuing to make this situation worse with everything it does in relation to Motion 503 (more on that this weekend) but one thing is crystal clear, the majority of the PC caucus either supports or condones the “lake of fire” school boards and if that isn’t hypocritical I don’t know what is!