Ponoka Christian School (PCS) is among a group of several Alberta schools and families taking on the province’s Bill 24: An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA).
The hearing for this large group of schools, which includes the Lacombe and Rimbey Christian Schools, is coming up on June 8 in Medicine Hat.
The grounds of the application state that there is an absence of parental knowledge with Bill 24, which creates an opportunity for predation.
“Children are often exploited, both sexually and emotionally, by adults or by their own peers, often with tragic, lifelong and irreparable consequences,” states the application, which can be found at the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms website.
“The abuse and exploitation of children occurs most often in places, and during times, when parents are absent and unaware,” it adds.
For parents within the application, it adds there is a worry of an air of secrecy. “The parents are alarmed and frightened at the climate of secrecy that the School Act has created around ideological sexual clubs and related activities.”
The document alleges some of the GSA support material delves into areas without guidance. “Many of these ‘support materials’ promote and provide explicit direction for inherently unhealthy sexual activity, without any reference to age or to parental consent for the viewing of such materials.”
In an email interview with Ponoka News, Hendrick de Gier, PCS board chairperson, responded to questions related to the reason for joining the application. He pointed out that PCS respects the rights of parents within the Alberta Bill of Rights to make informed decisions related to their education.
“Further, PCS also recognizes its religious freedom as guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to be able to teach curriculum from a Christian perspective and to seek to promote a Christian worldview in all aspects and activities of the school,” said de Gier.
He suggests that Bill 24 violates those rights and the beliefs of PCS. First, in requiring PCS to adopt policies that go against the school’s mission, said de Gier, and second, “requiring that PCS establish certain school clubs and activities regardless of whether they violate the Christian values of our school and parents.”
De Gier adds that Bill 24 also violates PCS rights by prohibiting notification of parents about, “these clubs or activities, even where the material covered deals ‘primarily and explicitly’ with sexuality, and regardless of the age or disability of any children involved.”
Another concern for PCS is worry that adults, who are already obligated to intervene and report risk, will rob vulnerable children of family support.
When asked if the school has a plan if the application is defeated, de Gier replied that the hope is the court will uphold the application and that the school is committed to the safety and well-being of children.
“The right of parents to be involved in their children’s lives is affirmed and protected through important legal documents including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Alberta Bill of Rights and the Family Law Act,” explained de Gier.