The end of “parental rights” in Alberta?

More good news out of Alberta, premier-elect Alison Redford is hinting that she may reverse the most controversial bits of Bill 44.

The bill was an overdue amendment to Alberta’s Human Rights Act, which added sexual orientation to the list of protections. However, sensing there might be a social conservative revolt to the idea that gays are people too, the government conceded a section that enshrined a parent’s right to opt their children out of topics including sexuality, sexual orientation, or religion, in schools.

That such rights already existed within the School Act was apparently insufficient for some parents, and some confused comments by then-premier Ed Stelmach had suggested evolution may be considered a religious topic. They quickly recanted that gaffe; however, the damage was easily done and teachers and the media were left scratching their heads as to the need for such legislation.

But the government held the line and pushed through valiant filibuster attempts by the Liberal and NDP opposition.

Redford’s reversal is welcome news to those of us who support comprehensive education, free from dogmatic influences.

She does go farther though and states she would repeal the entire Section 3 from the Human Rights Act. Section 3 is the hate speech section, long decried by conservatives like Ezra Levant and Christian fundamentalists who want the freedom to slander their favourite targets – typically Muslims and gays. Critics of the section argue that the current laws allow innocent columnists to be dragged before Human Rights Tribunals at their own expense by censors. Defenders argue that hate speech is a form of discrimination and needs to be curbed to protect those who may be victimized it.

While I would generally describe myself as a civil libertarian (among many things), I am conflicted on this issue and I think we need to see it as a balance of rights. People have the right not to be persecuted for their identity or beliefs, but they are also allowed to speak without fear of censorship.

It’s not clear to me that those indicted by the Tribunals have been unjustly punished, and given the tendency for those in the majority to use their privilege to demonize minorities, I think some level of laws against hate speech are justified.

Basically, I am not convinced that Alberta’s hate speech laws are broken, so I’m not convinced we should be trying to fix them. I am open to being proven wrong though.

One thought on “The end of “parental rights” in Alberta?

  1. I am also concerned about the issue of censorship and free-speech. However, I see no reason why basic freedom of speech cannot be reconciled with restrictions on speech that promotes bigotry against a particular group.

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