By MorinvilleNews.com Staff
Morinville – The Public Vs. Catholic education issue hit the Legislature floor Tuesday once again. Calgary Buffalo Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, who championed the cause of Morinville parents some months back, took on newly-minted Minister of Education Thomas Lukaszuk over the issue, particularly what the Liberal MLA sees as inequity on the school issue in light of Lukaszuk’s comments on the importance of equity in education to an Alberta School Board’s meeting.
The MLA and Education Minister’s exchange is transcribed below, courtesy of MLA Hehr:
Mr. Hehr: Mr. Speaker, I was present at the Alberta School Boards meeting this morning and had the opportunity to listen to the Minister of Education’s comments.
In his address the minister used the term “equity” and discussed applying that principle throughout the education system. When the minister spoke and used the term “equity,” I immediately thought about the situation in Morinville, a situation where parents are wanting a secular school for their children but still do not have that opportunity.
To the Minister of Education: why do parents in Morinville have to send their children to a school that is not a fully secularized public school?
The Speaker: The hon. minister.
Mr. Lukaszuk: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for that good question. When I talk about equity, what I’m saying is that every child anywhere in Alberta, no matter where they live, deserves the same high quality of education. That doesn’t always mean equality; it means equity because in some areas certain added resources need to be put in place to bring that level of education to the same level.
With reference to Morinville, Mr. Speaker, indeed there are concerns relevant to the provision of Catholic and secular education. The school board, whose trustees are duly elected by residents of that area, will have an opportunity to address that issue and resolve that issue. Hopefully, my office will not have to be involved in addressing a local issue.
Mr. Hehr: Well, given that the minister is in charge of this file and that that situation has been dragging on for some time and given that Morinville parents do not have a secular school of their own and that they are forced by government inaction to send their children to a holy parade of religious teaching, does the minister consider this equitable?
Mr. Lukaszuk: Mr. Speaker, I have a great deal of faith in and a great deal of respect for locally elected authorities. In that area there are duly elected trustees, and I know that they have the best interests of all children in the area in mind. I know that they have the ability to sit around a table – and I will be meeting with them, by the way, within the next couple of days. They will sit down around their common table and see if they can locally arrive at a solution so that one is not superimposed by my office. Locally arrived at solutions are always better than the ones put in place by a minister.
Mr. Hehr: Well, Mr. Speaker, this situation has dragged on for a number of years now. When will the minister take his skates off, do the right thing, and provide a solution to this problem where Morinville children cannot go to schools that provide a secularized schooling opportunity for their parents and for their children? Enough is enough. Let’s make a decision.
Mr. Lukaszuk: Well, Mr. Speaker, this member obviously is not well informed on the nature of the issue and the seriousness of the issue. These parents indeed are looking to a resolution, but as I said earlier, there are reasons to believe that a resolution can be found at the local level.
This is not an issue that should be politicized. There is no skating going on. We have parents who have certain rights and want to exercise them. We have trustees that have the ability and the tools to resolve that issue. We’ll let them resolve it immediately. If not, my office ultimately will have to make a decision. But that’s not the ultimate way of bringing peace into that part of the world.
Lukaszuk, who like his predecessor Dave Hancock is hoping for a local solution, is set to meet with school boards on Thursday at the Legislature. MorinvilleNews.com has been told the Morinville parents have not been formally invited, but do intend to attend at the Legislature to hear the outcome of the meeting.
In June of this year Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division invited Sturgeon School Division to provide the secular option parents were looking for. That system, Morinville Public Elementary School, has been running since September.