Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Alberta grudgingly enshrines gay rights in human rights code

Alberta passes law allowing parents to pull kids out of class

What is it with Conservatives that make them so mean? It took them 11 years to finally abide by the Supreme Court ruling to add sexual orientation to their human rights code and when they do, they do it in such a way as to stigmatize the very minority that they are supposed protect.

Rob Wells was the lone protestor with a sign who showed up at the Alberta Legislature to protest Bill 44, June 1, 2009. This bill affects teaching religion, sexuality or evolution to school students
"I am so very embarrassed to be an Albertan today. This government had a very simple task to do," longtime gay activist Murray Billett said Monday morning, noting the Supreme Court of Canada urged the province to enshrine gay rights 11 years ago."
Alberta legislators passed legislation early Tuesday that will give parents the option of pulling their children out of class when lessons on sex, religion or sexual orientation are being taught.
The parental rights clause is included in a bill intended to enshrine gay rights in Alberta's human rights code.

But the buried clause had drawn objections from teachers, schools boards and human rights groups, who argued Bill 44 makes it possible for parents to file human rights complaints against teachers and school districts, creating a chill with regard to what is taught in the classroom.
Critics had argued the clause should be scrapped and the issue should be dealt with under the Schools Act rather than being enshrined as a human right.

Frank Bruseker, president of the Alberta Teachers' Association, said he's advised the group's lawyers to prepare to defend any teachers who are brought before the human rights tribunal.

"We'll need to review curricula right across all subjects and all grades to see where there might be a minefield, if you will, that a teacher might step in and suddenly find themselves in deep trouble," Bruseker said.

Here is a brief summary of this original process that precipitated todays legislation.
(from an article last year in The Court.)

The extension of rights to LGBT populations began in 1969 with the passage of Bill C-50, which decriminalized homosexuality. While this was important legislation for the nation, incidents of discrimination towards gays and lesbians continued to occur.

One such case involved Delvin Vriend, an openly gay man, who, in 1991, was fired from his position as a laboratory coordinator at Kings College, a private catholic university. The college defended the dismissal, claiming that Vriend’s homosexuality was in conflict with their board of governors’ newly adopted position statement on religious practices.

Following his discharge, Vriend attempted to file a discrimination complaint against his former employer with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. He was subsequently rejected on the basis that sexual orientation was not protected under the province’s human rights code. As a consequence of this roadblock, Vriend sued the Government of Alberta and its Human Rights Commission.

In 1992, an Alberta court ruled that sexual orientation should be considered a protected ground under human rights legislation and that the legislation was inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The provincial government appealed and, in 1994, the decision was overruled by the Alberta Court of Appeal. The Alberta Court of Appeal decision was appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, with the support of several legal intervening groups, including LEAF, whose mandate is to advance the equality of women and girls, along with other marginalized communities in Canada.

In 1998, the SCC finally ruled that provincial governments could not exclude lesbian and gay individuals from human rights legislation and that the exclusion of protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was an unjust violation of s. 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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