By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – After presenting their case to Morinville Town Council Tuesday night, a group of local parents who have requested 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 the Alberta Legislature Wednesday afternoon. Donna Hunter, Marjorie Kirsop, Jesica Logan and David Redman were introduced to the legislature by Calgary Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr.
During question period Hehr asked Dave Hancock, Alberta’s Minister of Education and current Deputy House Leader if he felt it was acceptable there was no secular option in Morinville public schools, to which the minister simply replied no.
Hancock went on to say the situation in the Greater St. Albert Catholic public board was a bit of an anomaly in Alberta.
“It’s the one area of the province where the minority faith board is actually the Protestant board and the public board is stated to be a Catholic board,” Hancock said. “But there’s no question that as the public board they have an obligation to provide educational opportunities in all ranges to all students in that area. So while it is stated to be a Catholic board, it is, in fact, the overarching board for that area, and it has the responsibility to deal with the issues and concerns that have been raised.
In answering Hehr’s next question, Hancock went on to say the solution to the issue was not to be found in the forthcoming Education Act and that the current School Act is clear on the roles and responsibilities of the board and they would “have to come to an appropriate resolution to provide the appropriate schooling opportunities for those children” whose parents are seeking a non-faith-based public education.
Donna Hunter, spokesperson for the group of Morinville parents told Morinvillenews.com in an e-mail Thursday she was not satisfied with Minister Hancock’s response to MLA Hehr’s second and third question.
“I have heard the term anomaly over and over like it is a justifiable reason to deny Charter rights,” Hunter wrote. Minister Hancock states ‘the minority faith board is actually the Protestant board’. There is no minority faith board in Morinville, only in St. Albert. We have no board but the public board that is stated to be the Catholic board.
Hunter went on to say Minister Hancock acknowledge GSACRD’s responsibility to the parents but said he knows the board has formally refused to deal with the issue.
The local mother was also troubled by the Minister’s claim that solutions were not to be found in the province’s forthcoming Education Act.
“That is an about face from his statement to the Edmonton Journal on December 20 that said Morinville parents should look to the new act where the Minister may have the authority to switch school designations when they no longer reflect the minority faith population,” she said. “That authority has been scraped from the proposed act.”
Below is a complete transcript of the issue as presented in the Alberta Legislature Wednesday afternoon.
Mr. Hehr: Mr. Speaker, it’s my pleasure to introduce to you and through you to all members a delegation of concerned parents from the town of Morinville. I will ask my guests to please rise as I say their names: Mrs. Donna Hunter, Mrs. Marjorie Kirsop, Mrs. Jesica Logan, and Mr. David Redman. My guests have come here today in support of a secular public education option in Morin-ville. Please offer them the traditional warm welcome of this Assembly.
Secular Public Education in Greater St. Albert
Mr. Hehr: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Parents in Morinville have no option but to send their children to Roman Catholic schools, where religion informs every aspect of what they learn. A group of concerned parents want a public secular education option in their town. To the Minister of Education: does the minister think it’s acceptable that there is no option for secular public education for parents and students in an entire town?
Mr. Hancock: No, Mr. Speaker.
The Speaker: The hon. member.
Mr. Hehr: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Given that parents in Morinville filed an appeal with your office some four weeks ago, what is the status of this appeal, and will you be responding to the St. Albert school board in this regard?
Mr. Hancock: Mr. Speaker, we have in the Greater St. Albert Catholic public board a bit of an anomaly in the province. It’s the one area of the province where the minority faith board is actually the Protestant board and the public board is stated to be a Catholic board. But there’s no question that as the public board they have an obligation to provide educational opportunities in all ranges to all students in that area. So while it is stated to be a Catholic board, it is, in fact, the overarching board for that area, and it has the responsibility to deal with the issues and concerns that have been raised.
The Speaker: The hon. member.
Mr. Hehr: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. Regardless of the fact that this anomaly is only happening in one jurisdiction in Alberta, will your new education act contain a solution for these residents of Alberta?
Mr. Hancock: Mr. Speaker, this isn’t a situation for the education act. It’s pretty clear in the School Act as it is now and will be clear in the education act going forward that local boards have roles and responsibilities and have to operate within and fulfill those roles and responsibilities. They have a responsibility in this area. As I understand it, they’re engaged in discussion with the individuals involved. I’ve been apprised of those discussions. I’ve talked to the parties involved as well as the school board, and they will have to come to an appropriate resolution to provide the appropriate schooling opportunities for those children