By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – A delegation of Morinville parents requesting the Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division (GSACRD) to follow the general provincial curriculum in Morinville schools rather than the Catholic separate curriculum brought their case to Morinville Town Council Tuesday night. The delegation, led by group spokesperson Donna Hunter, presented their case in an eight-minute address to Mayor and council, outlining not only their concerns as parents but what they feel should be the concerns of council.
Hunter informed council that her group had met with GSACRD school trustees Dec. 13 and came away with the feeling the board felt a 148-year history of Catholic education in the area took precedence over Canadian law.
“Our school board informed us in writing that Morinville families are to accept a fully-permeated Catholic education or to get an education somewhere else,” Hunter told council. “We wanted our children to be part of this community, to play together in the town parks, walk together on the town trails and go to neighbourhood schools. We are encouraging our residents to shop local but not educate local.”
Hunter went on to rhetorically ask council how it would define Morinville’s educational system in the rebranding and marketing campaign it is currently rolling out this year. “How many families moving to Morinville will be impressed by the only resident public school system’s formal refusal of educational choice?” Hunter asked. “Future military families, even if they are Roman Catholic, will not settle here because of the resale of their homes on posting will be severely restricted to a specific demographic.”
The advocate for a general public education told council it was the voice of Morinville with the province on issues affecting the community’s future and called on council to speak to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Ken Kowalski on the matter.
“If you make a decision not to become involved, you have made a decision to support the status quo violation of over 70 per cent of Morinville families who should have access to a resident public inclusive education.”
At the conclusion of the delegation’s address, Mayor and council had neither comment nor questions about the presentation, a situation that caused some concern to Dave Redman, another member of the delegation.
“I’m concerned that they have chosen not to ask questions,” Redman said. “Very clearly, the presentation that Donna Hunter gave was focused on them and the concerns of what this means to the town and the businesses in the town. They simply chose not to ask any questions or ask for any clarification, and it’s our understanding that they were told not to ask.”
Mayor Bertschi said there was good reason for council’s silence after the delegation’s presentation. “It is an issue that has to be dealt with with the province and the school board, and it is absolutely not our sphere of jurisdiction,” the mayor said. “It absolutely isn’t. So there is nothing to ask.”
Delegation prepared to go further
Although the delegation brought their concerns to Morinville Town Council Feb. 22, they were set to be introduced in the Alberta Legislature the following afternoon, having been invited to attend.
“We’ve accepted the invitation simply to raise awareness of what’s going on,” Redman said. “We’ll see how that turns out, but it seems like the only way to get the government to act is to bring more and more pressure on them.”
Redman said to the best of his knowledge the province has made no overtures to GSACRD or even phoned them on the issue.
“It’s time to bring more pressure,” Redman said. “If the government refuses to act, then they – as employer of the schools in the province – are in contravention, in our opinion, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They’re basically forcing us to end up in a position of litigation that we don’t want to go to.”
Redman said the group is still hoping the government will take action in a timely manner.
“We’re not prepared to start another school year in September with our children in these schools,” he said.