Bill 24 Injunction: Judgement and Our Joint Future
the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions.
"an error of judgement"
"that is not, in my judgement, the end of the matter"
synonyms: acumen, shrewdness, astuteness, common sense, good sense, sense, perception, perspicacity, percipience, penetration, acuity, discrimination, wisdom, wit, native wit, judiciousness, prudence, sagacity, understanding, intelligence, awareness, canniness, sharpness, sharp-wittedness, cleverness, powers of reasoning, reason, logic
a misfortune or calamity viewed as a divine punishment.
"the events of the last week are a judgement on us for our sinful ways"
Allow me to set the stage…
There was a great deal of behind-the-scenes manoeuvering for the dates on the injunction hearing and ruling that would determine if schools would be seen as non-compliant with Bill 24. Schools had to file their paperwork by June 30, indicating that they agreed to be compliant on the form in order to successfully submit it online. Without indicating their compliance and being able to submit the form — eerily similar to the Canada Summer Jobs attestation scandal that is plaguing the current federal government — they would have to submit a paper copy instead and could expect to face the consequences. Trying to comply with Alberta Education and still remain true to their faith, the twenty-six faith-based schools listed as plaintiffs in the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) court case and injunction, and many, many more schools behind the scenes, rooted for a sliver of hope and for some time to continue being themselves until the case is heard sometime in 2019.
They were not alone. . .
The application also included over ten individual parents who were fighting, on behalf of all parents, for the parental rights that we seem to be granted everywhere else in law — rights that come with responsibilities. Parents for Choice in Education also stepped up as an applicant to assert the argument that Bill 24 legislation would isolate and endanger Alberta students because it "forces teachers to keep secrets from parents, allows clubs to provide sexual content to K–12 children without parents knowing, allows clubs to demand school-wide activities that can push political activism and social change… [and] forces faith-based schools to adopt policies and practices that may be in conflict with their mission and identity."
While Alberta's NDP government has continually asserted that GSAs are only social clubs and have nothing to do with sex, the judge noted that the government did "… acknowledge that information about gender and sexuality may be discussed in GSAs, they point out that the parental opt out provisions of s. 50.1(4) of the School Act do not apply to clubs or voluntary student organizations…" [emphasis added] (point ). For those unaware, GSAs were instituted with the May 2015 passing of Bill 10, "An Act to Support Gay Straight Alliances."
Alberta waited with bated breath for the judgment of Madam Justice Johnna Kubik to come down. It is worth noting that in the June 7, 2017 Question Period, Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu had noted that the judge had donated 26 times to the federal Liberal Party before being appointed to the bench. Newly appointed in May 2017, it is interesting that someone who was in private practice only last year was handed a case with such huge implications, and one that is sure to be a reputation-maker. Inside the courtroom, one person attending the hearing described it as a 'David and Goliath' situation.
Just in time for the Alberta Education requirements to be enforceable, the June 27 ruling was handed down against the injunction applicants, represented by the JCCF. Justice Kubik had not been convinced and in fact found as written on page 13  that "as a result, there is no evidence to suggest that the schools will be defunded or de-accredited for the upcoming school year, and there is no reason to take prohibitive steps to prevent defunding or de-accreditation." What the Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) Wendy Boje actually stated was shared immediately previous to the judge's statement: "While she acknowledged that loss of funding and accreditation was a possible outcome, she further stated it would be difficult for her to predict whether all due process reviews will been [sic] completed prior to the start of the September 2018 school year." [emphasis added]."
It sounds as if Alberta Education will be hard at work during the summer processing the paperwork and applying the numerous remedial and solution-oriented steps between non-compliance and the loss of funding or accreditation. ADM Boje simply clarified that she was not sure if Alberta Education would have enough time to complete the required process before school starts this fall. (She was right — although not completed by the fall, they did issue 30-day notices on policy revisions that have been individually reviewed at the beginning of September, with accreditation and funding threatened.) You will note that as recently as April, 2018, the NDP Minister of Education's email to Discover Airdrie was quoted by them in an article, which shared Minister Eggen's intentions unmistakably. "Let me be crystal clear: Bill 24 is the law and it will be enforced… Schools that don't follow the law will risk having their accreditation and funding stripped, period." Many have observed that Minister Eggen appears to be highly focused on advancing ideology over education, and Premier Notley has publicly vilified untold numbers of parents without cause, according to a National Post headline: "Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says United Conservatives are determined to bring harm to gay children." Determined to bring harm? I'm sure all reading this would refute that characterization, no matter their political preferences. It would seem likely that they will jump at the chance to act on this win, especially after settling out of court over their attempted closure of WISDOM Home Schooling/Trinity Christian School.
There are some observations that we can make. One thing that may cause the current NDP government to hesitate in pulling that trigger is this: the next provincial election. The scope of this case, the variety of the large group of plaintiffs, and the very real threat that the NDP faces in alienating so many… this cost right before an election may potentially be something significant enough that they will delay enforcement. The competition by United Conservative Party (UCP) has already been fierce, and they have demonstrated a great deal of momentum, as evidenced in the July byelections. The UCP defense of parental choice was demonstrated by their being the only party to vote against Bill 24 in the Legislature. If the NDP think that they may continue to form the government after the next election, they may choose wait to act on enforcement until they have indeed secured the next election. However, if they feel they are likely to lose, the NDP will have only a limited amount of time to inflict damage on these dissenting schools. And they must do so before the case arrives at another bench, where another decision is possible.
The JCCF is very passionate about this case. They know there is much at stake, both in precedent and in the practical, as the case outcome will have long-term effects on the ability of parents to make decisions for their kids, including the educational choices. It is interesting to note that the delay in the hearing allowed Justice Kubik to hear and then extensively use in her ruling the Trinity Western University (TWU) Supreme Court decision, reached only twelve days before her own ruling (see section ). Common defenders of those that find themselves squaring off against government overreach, JCCF knows that this case, and this injunction, deserves every effort. An appeal on this ruling has been filed, and we will watch and pray for another judgement to be handed down by the Court of Appeal panel (expected in November 2018), and for the lawyers who fight for us all.
Home educators may be wondering how this may affect them. One of the immediate concerns, based on ADM Boje's statement in court, is that many schools could be shut down by September 2018, or at any point afterwards. An influx of students could either head to a public school, or even more likely, to another school of similar beliefs that hasn't been closed. However, many families might decide to exit that education method altogether and try homeschooling. We will need to be available to our family and friends who could be placed in crisis mode and who are being forced to make a choice in a very short period of time due to actions taken by the provincial government.
Another consequence could be that schools will be shut down that have home education administrations attached to them. We are going to need to be working together on responding appropriately to whatever situations arise. I'm so very thankful, as I'm sure you are, for the experienced people who support and defend homeschooling, as well as the cooperation that is so obvious when we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all parents to defend our children and our fundamental freedoms.
So what can you do?
We are truly in a flurry of change in our society when we look at only the last four years. Justice Kubik cited part of the TWU case and wrote that "minor limits on religious freedom are often an unavoidable reality of a decision-maker's pursuit of its statutory mandate in a multicultural and democratic society." It seems as if what was so obviously the unquestioned right of religious freedom no longer is. But do not forget: it was obvious to everyone only a short time ago. Consider the irony of this statement from the past, which have been proven to be ghosts of our freedoms in light of this current legal battle. Below is a quote from an article written by Paula Simons in the Edmonton Journal on December 7, 2014. Even Ms. Simons, were she to look back now, should be able to see how far things have gone in such a short period of time.
Now, it is absolutely true that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects all Canadians from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, also protects freedom of religion. There are some Albertans — not all of them Catholic — who profoundly believe, as a matter of faith and a matter of conscience, that homosexuality is a sin…
In a country that respects freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, those parents are absolutely entitled, legally and morally, to their beliefs. And I would defend vehemently their right to their faith and their beliefs, for the same reason I would defend queer rights. Civil liberties are the right to all Canadians. The state doesn't have the right to send in thought police to tell parents — be they Catholic, or evangelical Protestant or Muslim or whathaveyou — that their beliefs are wrong. The state doesn't have the right to impose the political correctness of the day by legal fiat, nor to educate or indoctrinate children in ways their parents don't accept.
That's why I support the rights of parents to home school, or to send their kids to private religious schools, if they so desire.
If we do not right the course, by intentional and prayerful effort, where will our society, our country, and our freedoms be in another four years?