By Daniel Mallett
The last SEA meeting has been described as inspirational, motivational and heart-breaking. As many of you are aware, we had several parents from Morinville speak about the forced religious indoctrination their children are receiving at the hands of a “public Catholic” (there’s an oxymoron if I’ve ever seen one) school board. Unlike most other places in this province, all of Morinville’s “public” schools are Catholic. Although the parents can opt their kids out of some portions of the religious indoctrination there; they must aknowledge that Catholicism “permeates” all aspects of their child’s schooling. I encourage everyone to write the Education Minister Dave Hancock, their local MLA, the education critic, the Greater St Albert Catholic Schools (GSACRD),and anyone else they can think of about the dicriminatory education system in Morinville. If you are looking for a good summary of the situation you can read more in the comments for the event . We will also be posting a video of the presentation the parents made to SEA sometime soon. The basic outline is that the public board exclusively permeates Roman Catholism in all Morinville schools and has formally refused to provide a secular education to its resident students. Parents have appealed to the minister of education and called for an investigation of the Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division board to uphold the rights of Morinville children and parents for secular public education, but Mr. Hancock has said he is not ordering an investigation at this time and the solution to our concerns will come from the school board. The Morinville school situation shows how important it is to guarantee public secular education. The SEA hosted a letter writing party this afternoon and we made a lot of progress organizing our materials and coming up with content to include in letters. We would prefer if you customize the letter to use your own wording but if that is not possible here is a form letter you can use and sign.
Dear Mr. Hancock, Re: Lack of resident secular public education in Morinville, Alberta I am writing you regarding the situation of the resident students in Morinville whose rights as Canadians are being violated by the lack of a secular education option. While these children are receiving an Alberta education, there is no separation between education and Catholic beliefs that may differ from their own. This type of education is thus forcing religion upon young, impressionable minds against the express wishes of some parents. It is a disgrace that this is happening in the year 2011 in an affluent educated province such as Alberta. The Greater St Albert Catholic Regional Division (GSACRD) board refuses to perform their legal and constitutional requirement to provide a secular education for their students in Morinville. They are the de facto public board in that town and they must provide a public secular school option for students under their jurisdiction. The rights of these students are being violated. It is your duty as Education Minister to intervene immediately. Sincerely,
It may be more effective to print out the letter, sign it, and mail it. However, feel free to email Dave Hancock here.
firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 780-427-5010 Fax: 780-427-5018 #224 Legislature Building 10800 97 Ave NW Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2B6
Here is a list of other MLAs or organizations to email or write to:
Dave Hancock – Education Minister: email@example.com Ed Stelmach – Premier: firstname.lastname@example.org Ken Allred – PC MLA St. Albert – spoke at SEA meeting: email@example.com Naresh Bhardwaj – PC MLA for Edmonton-Ellerslie – asked Leg questions about Morinville situation on April 27, 2011: Edmonton.firstname.lastname@example.org Ken Kowalski – Speaker of the House and MLA for Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock:email@example.com Cabinet Ministers Lloyd Snelgrove – Minister of Finance and Enterprise: firstname.lastname@example.org Iris Evans – Minister of International and Intergovernmental Relationships: email@example.com Mel Knight – Minister of Sustainable Resource Development: firstname.lastname@example.org Luke Ouellette – Minister of Transportation: email@example.com Rob Renner – Minister of Environment and Deputy Government House Leader: firstname.lastname@example.org Verlyn Olson – Minster of Justice and Attorney General and Deputy Government House Leader:email@example.com Yvonne Fritz – Minister of Children and Youth Services: firstname.lastname@example.org Jack Hayden – Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development: email@example.com Ray Danyluk – Minister of Infrastructure: firstname.lastname@example.org Gene Zwozdesky – Minister of Health and Wellness and Deputy Government House Leader:email@example.com Ron Liepert – Minister of Energy: firstname.lastname@example.org Mary Anne Jablonski – Minister of Seniors and Community Supports: email@example.com Len Webber – Minister of Aboriginal Relations: firstname.lastname@example.org Heather Klimchuck – Minister of Service Alberta: email@example.com Lindsay Blackett – Minister of Culture and Community Spirit: firstname.lastname@example.org Cindy Ady – Minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation: email@example.com Hector Goudreau – Minister of Municipal Affairs: firstname.lastname@example.org Frank Oberle – Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security: email@example.com Jonathan Denis – Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs: firstname.lastname@example.org Thomas Lukaszuk – Minister of Employment and Immigration: email@example.com Greg Weadick – Minister of Advanced Education and Technology: firstname.lastname@example.org PC Leader Candidates Allison Redford – MLA for Calgary-Elbow: email@example.com Doug Griffiths – MLA for Battle River-Wainwright: firstname.lastname@example.org orhttp://www.betteralberta.ca/contact/ Doug Horner – MLA for Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert: email@example.com Gary Mar –Alberta’s official representative to the U.S.A.: firstname.lastname@example.org Ted Morton – MLA for Foothills-Rocky View: email@example.com Official Opposition – Alberta Liberals Laurie Blakeman – Leader of the Opposition: firstname.lastname@example.org Kent Hehr – Liberal Education Critic – asked questions on behalf of Morinville parents in Feb and March 2011:Calgary.Buffalo@assembly.ab.ca Alberta Party Sue Huff – interim leader of the Alberta Party – email@example.com NDP Brian Mason – leader of Alberta NDP: info@albertaNDP.ca Wildrose Party Danielle Smith – leader of Wildrose Party: http://wildrosealliance.ca/contact-us/ Link Byfield – Wildrose candidate for Barrhead-Westlock-Morinville: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Morinville Parent Delegation website is: http://www.morinvilleparentdelegation.webs.com If you are interested in reading some of the letters that Morinville citizens have written here are three: 1.
Dear Mr. Hancock: I am discouraged and appalled by GSACRD’s public notice in the Morinville local paper dated April 26, 2011. Here is the preamble for the GSACRD advertisement in the Morinville Free Press: “In response to a request for an education option in the community that does not include any religious instruction, references, symbols or celebrations, GSACRD has contracted Pivotal Research Inc. to conduct an impartial, non-biased survey to determine the level of interest and support.” I am a Christian woman with two children, one of whom is in Grade 2 at a GSACRD public school in Morinville. I am part of the Morinville Parent Delegation and stand beside Donna Hunter with pride and dignity. The parent delegation asked for a Public education like that of other Public schools in Alberta as written in the Constitution. The school day may be opened with the Lord’s Prayer and the day may end with 30 minutes of religious instruction for those who wish it (opt-in). On April 11, 2011 when concerned parents had the meeting with GSACRD, I felt that the GSACRD Administration and Trustees were sincere in our discussions and now I am left feeling that I was naive to believe that GSACRD truly wanted what was best for the community of Morinville and more importantly the children of Morinville. The Constitution does not entitle GSACRD to permeate Catholicism in any of their schools. My daughter’s rights are being violated every single passing day, and I truly believe that you, as Minister of Education, should have already stepped in. I can see why there would be confusion about the Morinville public school situation in our community, when I hear from a GSACRD trustee that the law is up for interpretation. I understand that there are different legal opinions; however the Constitution is not up for interpretation, the limitations on religious instruction and exercises entrenched in the Alberta Act are specific. As Minister of Education you are well aware of that. The law is the law and GSACRD is breaking the law. GSACRD is a public school division. The legal opinion that GSACRD may wholly permeate the Roman Catholic faith in all division schools is empty. If a school system and education system (School Board and Education Minister) truly believed in education that is best for all children then they wouldn’t allow the law to be so flagrantly violated tolerating one religious faith conviction to be exclusively permeated throughout an entire public school division. It is not acceptable to support, by lack of action, for even one child to be required to conform or be cast out of their resident public school system because he/she does not choose a Roman Catholic permeated education in their PUBLIC School. Mr. Bhardwaj, MLA for Edmonton-Ellerslie, asked in the Legislature on April 27, 2011 what the Education Minister was doing to ensure that the parents in Edmonton and elsewhere in the province have access to their choice of education (referring to concerned parents regarding faith-based education). Minister Hancock replied: We’ve seen across the province a number of people writing in and asking for assurance that this government supports a faith-based education, particularly the separate school boards across the province. We’ve made that clear time after time after time. We believe in choice in education. We have an excellent system of education in the province that consists of a public system, which is available for all students; in certain places in the province where it’s been established, a minority faith board, mainly a Catholic board, except in St. Albert, where it’s a Protestant board; and then charter schools, private schools, and other options. What I would like to focus on in your response is: “We believe in choice in education.” Enough said then Mr. Hancock, the children of Morinville deserve to have a choice of a resident, secular, Public inclusive education, PERIOD. If the solution is to find another public board to provide secular education with rights as residents to Morinville citizens, then why hasn’t GSACRD found a partner yet? Why is it up to GSACRD and not the education minister to find a “suitable” partner, when GSACRD can’t even understand what the original request was? Sturgeon School Division is willing to provide a meaningful program; however, GSACRD feels that SSD is not the most capable of educating Morinville children. I want to know why? This delay is unacceptable. GSACRD is a public board. GSACRD denies their obligation to provide secular public inclusive education to its residents. Your minimal involvement encourages GSACRD to continue breaking the law. Mr. Hancock, you must act decisively to correct this public school board’s flouting of Alberta and Canadian law.
May 4, 2011 To Minister Hancock, I am saddened and disheartened. Again in the Morinville Free Press, now dated May 3rd 2011 page A19, I see the Public Notice from GSACRD with Pivotal Research announcing a survey to determine support and interest for an educational option without ANY religious references. This not only misrepresents our parent request but goes against the religious instruction protected in the Constitution which Morinville parents specifically cited be adhered to in our request. We did not ask for special treatment above the Constitution or above what a Public Division should offer; we asked that our education be like that of other Public divisions across Alberta where religious instruction and exercises are “opt-in”. Religion is not mandatory in education, nor is it required to graduate, but in the GSACRD Public division, Roman Catholic permeated instruction is inseparable from public education. This is unacceptable. There should be opt-in programs such as the Christian Logos Program if Morinville residents choose a faith permeated education for their children. Our Public division cannot deny our request, but they have repeatedly. And now GSACRD misrepresents the Morinville Parent Delegation request in print with a Public Notice advertisement. I am deeply disappointed that a formal investigation of GSACRD’s actions is not taking place. GSACRD’s repeated formal and public denial to meet their obligation to provide secular education as a Public division no different than other Public divisions across Alberta is in total defiance to your position stated in letters to Morinville parents and to the media. Words only go so far, in the end action needs to be taken to correct this unjust anomaly. I am moving. I don’t want to but I have to because as a non-resident of another Public division my right to have a say, to vote for the Trustees that have the vision for current and future education for my children, in a Public division, adhering to the Constitution, is stripped away. Do I and other parents in Morinville really need to vote, to be residents and active members in our children’s education? GSACRD says no. I say yes! How shockingly disingenuous of GSACRD! This is the issue, not religion, but democracy. Democracy is what makes Canada great and to diminish that is un-Canadian. GSACRD is in violation of Canadian democracy and the Constitution and no member of Government will correct the abuse. I am moving to regain my rights but I will still be in Alberta, the province that allows this kind of violation. I will continue to be an advocate for Public education as it is written in the Constitution within the democracy of Canada. Please be advised I will be writing again.
April 27, 2011 The Honourable Dave Hancock Minister of Education 224 Legislature Building 10800 – 97 Avenue Edmonton, AB T5K 2B6 Dear Minister Hancock: I am compelled to write a letter to you, as a concerned citizen of Morinville on the issue of secular school education. I cannot believe what has transpired in the past eight (8) months and continues to unfold. I am angrier still as the issue of the last eight months should never have occurred if it had been dealt with in 1988, 1995 or 2000 when the issue repeatedly came up, and was repeatedly ignored or dismissed both by the Government of Alberta and GSACRD. That said; let us deal with the issue as it exists today. I am constantly frustrated and in disbelief by the steps that have had to be taken in the case of the struggle for basic Canadian and Alberta laws to be enforced, to protect fundamental Canadian rights in Morinville schools. Many people want to cloud the issue. The issue is the town of Morinville has four PUBLIC schools. These schools are currently operated by the Greater St Albert “Catholic” (Public) Regional Division. These schools are being operated as if they were separate Schools. Religious instruction is completely and fully permeating the entire instructional day, formal and informal. Setting aside the fact that many parents are already daily driving their children out of town as they will not stand for the fully permeated religious education that GSACRD is forcing into the four schools, less than 30% of the children attending all four of these schools are identified by their parents as Roman Catholic. The issue, raised by a group of residents of this division, is that the public schools in Morinville need to act as PUBLIC schools, like everywhere else in Alberta and Canada. I am the father of Donna Hunter and the grandfather of 5 children who would have been attending GSACRD schools this coming September. The violation of my rights, my two daughters’ rights and my five grandchildren’s rights to an education without religious permeation will end by our three families forced to sell their homes and at emotional and economic loss move to Edmonton. You and GSACRD have now stated that a survey of the citizens will be conducted to see how many people would like a secular education to be provided in Morinville, as an option or alternative program. Unbelievable. Laws in our country are not enforced if “numbers are sufficient”! So let’s be clear. If enough citizens of Canada would actually like to have the laws of our country enforced, then you and GSACRD will attempt to find an alternative program, run by a different public school division to try to accommodate them? If numbers wanting their legal rights to be upheld are small, then their children will have to be bussed out of their public school division’s jurisdiction to another public school division area? Let us look at this from a different point of view. GSACRD believes that they have 148 years of history that allows them to violate the rights of the citizens of Morinville by acting as if they were a Catholic Separate School Board, even though they are the only public school board serving Morinville. 148 years ago, women did not have the right to vote. If we follow the GSACRD logic, then in Morinville, if enough of the citizens of the town would actually like for women to have the vote, even though it is a law everywhere else in Alberta and Canada, then perhaps we could try to find a different voting area that they could be permitted to vote in, as an alternative program. We might even bus them. We are not the first to be forced to move from Morinville in order to have our right to a public education upheld. Many have left Morinville before us for this reason and the inaction of the Government of Alberta to deal with GSACRD. Many others are being forced to plan to take these steps. Many others right now drive their children out of their Morinville public school division daily, to have them attend public schools elsewhere, because of the illegal conduct by GSACRD and the Government of Alberta. In your letter to Donna Hunter dated March 24, 2011 you stated, “As you are aware, yesterday I met with the Board of GSACRD to discuss their responsibilities regarding your request. In my view the law is quite clear that the rights and privileges of the GSACRD board are no different than those of any other public board. The Board indicated that they understood their obligation.” In today’s St. Albert Gazette the Superintendant of GSACRD is quoted as saying, “We recognize that it’s not our mandate to fulfill but in the interest of being [a] good community partner and to try to be as helpful to these parents as possible, we will work to try to find somebody.” In the past two decades GSACRD has continuously indicated that they understand that their obligation is to ignore, deny and disrespect anyone requesting an education not of their faith. They also have understood that their obligation is to break the laws of Canada and Alberta, due to their “legislative mandate”. Unacceptable. The law is clear and they have no “legislative mandate” that puts them above the Constitution! The GSACRD board formally and publicly ignored and defied you twice. What will you do? Give them more chances to do this for another decade, or will you take action to correct this illegal anomaly? Since your meeting with them on March 23, 2011, the position of GSACRD has not changed. They state they have NO obligation to provide a secular education as a public school board. They will try to find a partner. The partner they are trying to find will be as far away from Morinville as possible, to try to make this alternative public school option as unpopular as possible. The meeting with Sturgeon Schools was superficial at best. Enough. The law is clear to both you and the citizens of Morinville. Every child is entitled to a public education free from religious instruction, indoctrination and dogma. In Morinville the law has been intentionally violated by GSACRD and the Government of Alberta for decades. Again, not counting those already being driven out of town daily by their parents, 70% of the town’s enrolled students are not of the Catholic faith. That statistic is redundant. Public schools are secular. Separate schools are faith based. There is no reason for a poll, or census or survey. As Minister of Education, knowing that the public have repeatedly tried and failed and that you have tried and failed to have GSACRD recognize their obligation under the law, you must re-designate the geographic area of Morinville to a public school board that does understand their obligation. The schools in Morinville must be transferred to a “real” public school board. You have this power as the Minister and it is used routinely to handle demographic changes in Alberta annually. Do it now, here, for a far better reason, enforcement of the laws of Canada and Alberta. Then, if numbers warrant, the citizens of Morinville have a legal process to determine if they will have a Catholic, or other faith based school in Morinville. If not, then perhaps a busing agreement can be made with a nearby separate school division. The citizens of this town have waited decades for a public school education to be provided in Morinville. Those wishing a faith based system can legally be provided with an alternative program by September if you act now. GSACRD has made their position clear; they defy you and will do everything possible to delay any action on this issue. The survey is inappropriate. Enforce the law for all citizens and for all the public schools in Alberta. Separate schools do not exist in Morinville but legally there is a process to establish one if it is desired and numbers warrant. Let’s put the issue straight. The anomaly is not the residents who have asked that their public schools stop acting like separate schools, it is the GSACRD school board refusing to act as the Public Board they are paid to be.