Parental rights. Parental rights. Parental rights.
You can hear the chant already.
Book yourself a ringside seat. Clear your calendar.
This won’t be the usual dull-as-ditchwater political snoozefest. No, there will be folks speaking their minds.
There could very well be fireworks and it’s not even New Year’s.
You see, the UCP led by Premier Danielle Smith are having a real shindig in Calgary, the yearly gathering of the party faithful with the best of the rock ’em, sock ’em action expected the first Saturday of November.
Already 3,100 are signed up. More are expected, perhaps many more.
It’s the biggest or one of the biggest political happenings in this country’s history.
So say the UCP.
And here is it. Right there in the UCP program.
It’s not just an issue in Saskatchewan or New Brunswick or even stateside.
It’s coming to the floor of the United Conservative Party annual general meeting, courtesy of party members.
One proposal the UCP members will jaw over.
Requiring teachers, schools and school boards to obtain the written consent of the parent/guardian of a student under the age of 16 prior to changing the name and/or pronouns used by the student.
Personal pronouns. You know, he or she, him or her.
Why do the supporters want this required by the Alberta government?
“Parents, not schools, are the legal guardians of their children.”
“Schools require a signed permission slip to take children on a field trip so it’s unclear why schools should not require parental consent for identification changes.”
“Schools should not be in the business of going behind parents’ backs.”
Another proposal goes further.
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These UCP members want the Smith government to “support a comprehensive Bill of Parental Rights which ensures that all legislation will recognize and support parents’ rights to be informed of and in-charge of all decisions to do with all services paid for by the province, including education and health care.”
Why do they want this Bill of Parental Rights?
They say “activist professionals have been interpreting various pieces of legislation in ways that minimize the authority of parents over their children.”
They speak of “abuses” in education, health care and justice and without something like a Bill of Parental Rights “it is likely such abuses will become more pronounced.”
A Bill of Parental Rights would “recognize parental rights as prior to the State and provide such guidance in a firm manner.”
Parental rights is mentioned in another proposal by UCP members who believe “Albertans have many endangered God-given rights and freedoms.”
Another proposal coming from UCP members …
That teachers, schools, school boards and third parties providing services to kindergarten to Grade 12 schools do not provide access to materials “of a sexual, racist or abusive nature,” including in books, handouts, online materials and live events “not part of the Alberta Program of Studies.”
These members say school libraries have books where the “contents of these books could be considered as child pornography.”
Last week, when the new arena for Calgary was finalized, a newshound asked Smith a question.
If it was backed by her party’s members, would she support what the Saskatchewan government is doing, where students under 16 would need parental consent if they want to change their names or pronouns at school.
Smith ragged the political puck, dipsy-doodling and stickhandling, no doubt waiting to see UCP members put in their two cents worth and see how it plays out in Saskatchewan.
Then there’s the Leger poll Thursday.
When a student tells a teacher they want to change their gender or have new gender pronouns should schools have to let the parents know?
In Canada as a whole, 63% of those polled say Yes and 22% say No. The others don’t know.
In Alberta it’s 54% Yes and 29% No.
When a child is using a different gender pronoun or name at school and tells their teacher they don’t feel safe telling their parents, should teachers be obliged to notify their parents?
In Canada, it’s 45% Yes and 35% No.
In Alberta, it’s 42% Yes and 39% No.
The rest don’t know.
Would you support or oppose your province using the notwithstanding clause to override the courts to ensure schools inform parents if their child wishes to be identified by a different gender or have their gender pronoun changed?
In Canada, it’s 46% Yes to overriding the courts, 31% No.
In Alberta it’s 41% Yes, 36% No.
Then there’s Smith.
The premier says people are excited about political issues and she considers Take Back Alberta “as one of a multitude of independent advocacy groups” getting Albertans involved.
“I encourage advocacy. I encourage people to get excited and get involved in different groups. I’ve been delighted by the level of engagement in our party. Almost my whole career I’ve been fighting apathy.”
Smith speaks of the party’s upcoming bun fight.
“Man, it’s going to be a pretty robust policy discussion. I’m excited.”