Religious schools and parents in Canada have challenged a law that allows students to start or join Gay-Straight Alliances at school without informing or seeking consent from their parents. The petitioners say the law is a threat to the safety of vulnerable and at-risk children.
In their court application filed this week, the coalition of independent schools and parents challenged the constitutionality of sections of Bill 24, "An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances," alleging they violate the rights of parents and schools protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Bill of Rights.
Bill 24 was passed by the Alberta legislature in November 2017 to amend the School Act to make it illegal for the school principal to notify parents about their child's involvement in student organizations, including Gay-Straight Alliances.
The petitioners include 26 faith-based schools in Alberta, including Jewish, Christian, and Sikh schools.
In a statement, the applicants said no-go zones for parental awareness will endanger the safety of children, especially the most vulnerable, and also undermine parents' ability to support and protect their own children.
"There should be no secret space in our school where parents cannot know what is happening, or where parents have no say in the content or discussion. In particular, principals and teachers must be able to continue to advise parents when, how and where their children will be exposed to sexually explicit content," stated Abigail Schimke, an applicant wrote in the court petition. "As a parent, it is so important to me that my children — and all Alberta students — are in a safe and caring environment. Bill 24 undermines that safe environment by taking away the opportunity for caring parents to be involved."
Sukhvinder Malhotra, a board member of Khalsa School Calgary, said, "Trust is a critical aspect of our school community; parents choose to send their children to our school because they trust us to teach and to care for each and every student in accordance with the parents' values. That relationship is paramount. ... Bill 24 does not take into account the unique identity and mission of our school and is therefore a serious threat to our school community."
Education Minister David Eggen hopes the court will uphold the law, according to Edmonton Journal.
The Canadian government led by President Justin Trudeau has been promoting LGBT issues.
Last year, an evangelical Christian couple from Alberta said that their application to adopt a child was rejected by the government because they do not agree with gay marriage.
In his 2018 budget, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau included a section highlighting ways to improve census data so that it is "more inclusive."
"In order to obtain more inclusive data on sex and gender, Statistics Canada officials have been working with LGBTQ2 organizations to adjust Census of Population questions and response options to better reflect how people identify themselves, for example, by allowing respondents to answer in a non-binary fashion," the proposal stated. "This will provide critical information to help understand and meet the needs of LGBTQ2 Canadians."