The government of Alberta (Ministry of Culture and Community Spirit) proposes to amend that province’s Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act by requiring school boards to inform parents when the curriculum deals with religion, sexuality or sexual orientation. The provision in question reads as follows:
11.1(1) A board as defined in the School Act shall provide notice to a parent or guardian of a student where courses of study, educational programs or instructional materials, or instruction or exercises, prescribed under that Act include subject-matter that deals explicitly with religion, sexuality or sexual orientation.
Bill 44 [PDF]
Essentially, a parent may then send a child’s teacher a note excusing that child from the lesson or exercise objected to, and the child must be excused without penalty.
It’s difficult to know where to begin with objections to this provision. It would seem on the face it, at least, that notice would have to be sent with respect to every course in biology, given that sexual reproduction is a central notion in such courses; and that, therefore, all objecting students could be excused from all biology courses. History and literature would also seem doomed. On the assumption that what is meant is a more fine-grained notice, the amount of time and effort involved on the part of teachers or board staff to interpret, peruse and select material would be enormous — if they could figure out what is covered.
It appears that the government itself is unclear. The premier is quoted in news reports as saying that students could be excused from that portion of science courses dealing with evolution; whereas the responsible minister says, no, that evolution is science and that what is intended is that parents who object to courses on religion could pull their kids out. What a laudable goal that would be, for human rights legislation: enabling people to refuse to learn about other religions.