Morinville secular option to be in place this fall

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Parents seeking a secular education for their children met with Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division (GSACRD) board members Monday night for two-and-a-half hours to discuss and debate how the division will proceed with short-term plans to provide a non-religious education for their children. What is certain is that those seeking a secular education will get it, but GSACRD will not be providing it.

“It wouldn’t be us who would be providing the program, said Board Chair Lauri-Ann Turnbull. “It will certainly be us who will be working hard to find partners who will provide that in our community.”

Also up in the air is whether the secular program will take place in Morinville or if bussing will remain an option. Either situation could prohibit Morinville parents from running for school board trustee. Turnbull said GSACRD’s short-term goal is to have a secular option in place for Sept. 1. “All these other things that we need to address as we move through this process would be more into the medium- and long-term solutions,” she said. “To run for trustee – that wouldn’t be an option until 2013.”

Turnbull said she felt Monday night’s meeting went well and that both sides had an opportunity to discuss where the division is at in terms of providing a secular option for students by the fall.

“I think we’re both on the same page there that that is the short-term goal,” Turnbull said, adding her board will be meeting with Sturgeon School Division next week to discuss the possibility of providing such a program and that they are also open to the possibility of other educational partners taking on that role. But just who those partners are, Turnbull was not prepared to say. “We are in the process of having some conversations” she said. “ We are not at this time really able to discuss who those people might be as they’re still trying to decide whether or not they’d be willing partners.”

What Turnbull was able to disclose is the fact GSACRD would be employing the services of Pivotal Research to conduct a survey of the parents of Morinville’s 1,700 students. Results from that survey are expected to be received by the end of May at which time Turnbull said the results would be shared with the community.

Turnbull explained every Morinville parent will receive a survey by mail that could be completed online or by mail. Additionally, Pivotal will follow the 1,700 parental surveys with a random phone survey of residents with a survey sample of not less than 400 people.

Just what questions will appear on the survey will be left up to Pivotal based on conversations had between the delegation and the board and what the two groups would like to see in terms of information. “Pivotal will be forming those questions,” Turnbull said. “That’s absolutely not for us to be part of.”

Parent delegation still concerned

Donna Hunter, spokesperson for the Morinville parent delegation, said her group was not pleased that Monday night’s meeting was their sole opportunity to provide input into the survey. “There’s no steering committee,” Hunter said, adding she is concerned that GSACRD will be the filter through which her group’s survey requests and ideas are presented to the survey contractor. Hunter said she felt since GSACRD will not be providing the secular education program, that it was important that the educational partner who would be providing the program be involved in the survey process. “Their input and full partnership on the survey is critical,” she said.

The delegation’s spokesperson said despite Minister of Education Dave Hancock meeting with GSACRD and making it clear to them what their responsibilities as a public board were, there is still disagreement between what the minister sees as GSACRD’s responsibility and what the division sees as its responsibility.

Additionally, the parent group are disappointed that it is still not clear whether or not the secular program they are seeking will be provided in Morinville. “They’re still talking about accessibility. They’re still talking about bussing.” Hunter said. “That is not acceptable.”

Hunter’s experience with the process of trying to get a secular education for her children has prompted Hunter and her family to sell their home in Morinville and make plans to move outside of Morinville where she can be assured her children will get the education she wants for them.

“We had to make a backup plan,” Hunter said, adding her home is sold and the family will be moving. “Here we are. It is April 12th and even though we have done the entire process, do I have someplace where I can register my children where I can get a secular education, where I’d be a resident? No. I don’t”

Hunter said she will continue as the parent delegation’s spokesperson and will continue to do what she can for her group’s cause. “If something is in place, I will look at it,” she said. “I will try and help with the process, but this has been emotionally brutal. Obviously this is very important to me. I have to protect my kids. If nobody is going to guarantee the law, I need to do it.”

Hunter said the entire process of dealing with GSACRD has been intimidating and that her group requested more transparency from the division through the survey process. Board Chair Turnbull said information about the survey would be on the GSACRD website by Tuesday evening.

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  1. If Donna Hunter is the bravest person you have ever met, you need to head down to the fire dept. or make a trip to the Garrison. she was persistant and was willing to put in the work.

  2. Dear Anonymous – who chose to tell Donna Hunter she is ashamed of her for Moving.

    First, lets start with Donna moving. What this tells her children, now and forever, is that she has placed them first in her life. She has, for over nine months, fought on behalf of all of the citizens of Morinville, for their legal right to have their PUBLIC schools act like PUBLIC schools and not separate schools. When people like you, hid as anonymous, she put herself and her family in harms way. She accepted the insults, the cold shoulder, the rage and repeated denial for the rights of her and her children to fight against a School Board and a a government that has illegally denied the right to a secular education in the four public schools in Morinville. All this time, her children have had a belief forced upon them that they and their parents do not believe in, in full violation of the laws of Canada and Alberta. She is moving to stop that illegal and immorale action by this Board continuing to occur to her children.

    You state that it is easy to move. That is crap and you should know it. This move will cost her tens of thousands of dollars, it will cause a huge upheaval in her family’s lives. The decision has cost her personal health and emotional damage.

    Then you have the gall to act like you feel that she is abandoning you, someone who does not even have the courage to sign your name to you hurtful and uniformed blog. If you don’t know, Donna has no intention on giving up on this issue. She is simply stopping the illegal religous abuse and denial of the Charter Rights of her children by moving them out of a situation that GSACRD and the Minister have refused to guarantee will stop.

    I have always been proud of all of my children. Donna is one of my three kids and I have never been more proud of her than I have been this past year and for her courage to sacrifice even more by this move out of Morinville. Her sister Carol I am equally proud of, as she has fought this illegal action by GSACRD side by side with her sister, and is continuing this fight from a new home outside of GSACRD’s jurisdiction as well. As their father, my wife and I are throwing away the home that we purchased for our full retirement, 20 years early, as I stand with my daughters in this cause to stop religous discrinimation in Morinville.

    Anonymous, I hope you will one day have the courage to stand up for a cause like Donna, but I doubt it.

    Dave Redman

  3. If I’ve read this right, there are two school board trustees for Morinville who were elected during the last election to work for the Catholic School Board. And I understand that the next election won’t be until 2013.
    But during the last election, a secular school wasn’t a big issue, therefore a rep wasn’t required. But now it appears that some sort of secular schooling will be put in place….without secular representation.
    Perhaps the secular camp needs an interim school trustee to be appointed until the next election.

    I would like to nominate Donna Hunter, for the position, she has proven to be a focused leader and would be instrumental in bringing about the changes needed.

  4. I am so proud to call Donna my friend, she has worked so hard to make Morinville a better place to live and for our children, but after reading some of the horrible and idiotic comments here maybe she has the right idea to move away from these narrow minded people that live in this community!

  5. Wow, some great comments here…where to begin!

    I was touched by Dave Redman’s support and acceptance of his daughter’s decision to fight for the rights of her children. All she wants is a fair and equitable option. Currently, it is supposedly an option to opt out of the religious portion of the schooling, however, religion is entwined with every aspect of the school. The year is based on the liturgical calendar, members of the parish are guest speakers on a regular basis during school assemblies, all documentation from the school is infused with images of crosses, angels and shining light from above, there is morning, afternoon and end of day prayers etc. You basically have the right to opt your child out of the extra religion classes not the whole religious experience. Is it fair to the children to be segregated at such an early age? This would not be allowed to occur in an adult place of employment so why is it okay to occur where our children “work”? But, apparently my options are to either place my 4 year old on, most likely, a 40-60 minute bus ride out of town by herself, move to a new community or never to have settled here at all? I think Donna Hunter’s decision to move is not about running away so much as proving a point that if the system stays so archaic and unwilling to change people will leave out of frustration. What was she supposed to do, be a hypocrite and enroll her children in the very institution she is fighting to change? Seeing as the change will not happen overnight she needs to do something in the meantime.
    Young mom, your comments made me throw up in my mouth a little. There are many considerations when deciding where to put down roots. Proximity to work, family, amenities, cost of living, crime stats and the list goes on. Saying new members of a community shouldn’t have equal rights is ridiculous. My tax dollars say I have rights. Also, just because an institution has been around for decades doesn’t make it right or right for everyone. Just because you were willing to settle doesn’t mean everyone else should.

  6. Well author of the Morinville News, your title of the editorial film you posted a few weeks back, “A Town Divided”‘ is a true title to describe the town of Morinville.

    This article touches on 2 subjects; one being the survey to be conducted by the GSACRD and the second being the leaving of Donna from the town.

    This is an online newspaper that leaves room for peoples comments. And all I can say is I’m not sure I would want any one of you who has left a comment as a friend of mine. Somebody posts their thoughts, their opinions and you all jump to crucify that person. No wonder they used the tag anonymous or young mom. I ask are you all using your REAL name as a tag? And why aren’t some of you using your last name? Why are you all hiding?

    Whoever you are anonymous you did a good job demonstrating how divided this town is and showing how intolerable everybody really is. It appears that no one is willing to let the other person talk or voice their thoughts, comments, or concerns. We are entitled to voice what we think, especially on an online forum. Young mom the same goes for you. You are entitled to voice your opinions on this matter. We ALL, no matter what side of the fence we sit on are entitled to voice our thoughts. What ever happened with meeting in the middle, in peace? So with Donna moving out of the town, which one of you loud mouths who love to throw stones at people just speaking their minds, are going to take over as the spokesperson for the parent delegation? Let’s see you put action to your words!

    Now back to topic…why is the survey only being taken of parents of children already enrolled in a GSACRD school in Morinville? That won’t be an accurate count of people wanting a non religious based education for their children. And good luck Donna where ever you go.

  7. @ Jay…

    while entitled to your opinion, i have to disagree with you saying basically “go to the garrison or fire department to see REAL bravery”. Your comment seemed pompous to me.

    Yes, I appreciate what the military risks for our country, YES many members of the military are brave… but you are minimizing what is going on here and thats not right.

    Some people are brave, some are not, and some are just cashing a paycheck. I’ve known enough military to know this goes for the army, and every other job out there. I’m not saying soldiers etc arent brave, just that courage comes in many forms.

    In this instance I see a woman/family enduring hardship for a cause they believe in. It’s more than just “putting in the work”. It’s putting yourself out for ridicule, hardship, and persecution. She is standing up against a huge system and being counted. And for what? Not money. Not to ride around in a fire truck. It’s for an ideal. A principle.

    If you have to go to the garrison to see courage, you’re not looking closely enough.

    My 2 cents.

  8. “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope… and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance”. ~Robert F. Kennedy


    In the short time I have know you you have taught me many valuable and life lasting lessons. Three years ago my husband and I wanted to raise the questions you have asked but didn’t have the courage or know where to start. You have changed us. I will never again when faced with an injustice or wrong in my life think the issue is too big or scary to tackle. You are tangible proof that one person can make a huge difference in this world. You have made a huge difference in ours. I admire you as a mother, friend, community citizen and leader. You and your entire family will truly be missed. This town has been better off for having you and our children will benefit from your fight. I cannot thank you enough for publicly standing up with such grace and integrity despite the hardships and emotional brutality that has followed. We still have a long way to go but you have paved our way. With your continued help I am confident we will get there.

    Jennifer Love

  9. Mike Anderson: Young Mom and Anonymous are throwing stones… The replies are throwing facts which expose the inaccuracy and miss understanding of the rights of the people they oppose. I know that opposing the opinion of the Catholic Church in any manner is considered blasphemy, heck they have murdered millions of people throughout history in the name of God for such a despicable act. I think you will find the resolve of the “Loud Mouths” growing in strength and and numbers and if you read the article; the group will not need a new leader.

  10. Jennifer, you have perfectly articulated my sentiments towards Donna. Well said.

    Rarely do you find a person who possesses the courage of their convictions. Donna has that quality in spades, and I admire her for that.

  11. I am sorry to be losing Donna from our community! As a mom with young children I run into Donna everywhere and see the commintment she has to keep her kids involved in her community. Thank you Donna for bringing our school issue to the surface. I moved here 3 years ago and was not happy to learn that our public schools are actually Cathloic and it has bothered me that I had no choice in concerns to my children’s education. I did not know how to change it and I am so thankful for what you have done. Everyone deserves a choice!

  12. To all of you writing messages to or about Donna Hunter,

    She is one voice (a strong, educated and professional voice) but no matter how strong one voice is, we need to amplify it so that the Minister of Education can hear it clearly.

    Please write to Dave Hancock Minister of Education of Alberta and amplify the voice!
    Phone: 780-427-5010
    Fax: 780-427-5018

    #224 Legislature Building
    10800 97 Ave NW
    Edmonton, Alberta
    T5K 2B6

  13. I find this debate riveting! I could not believe that the only option for education in Morinville was Catholic. I used to be a teacher at one time and I didn’t think that such a flagrant violation of the charter of rights and freedoms was possible without the notwithstanding clause.

    It is obvious that Donna Hunter has touched on an issue central to the community, and wow some of those responses are hostile (Anonymous, you don’t mention religion in your comment specifically but I’d bet you are in some fashion with such close-mindedness).

    This woman is to be applauded for taking the issue to the premier himself and getting the issue raised to the level that it has been. I remember hearing her speak on CBC radio a while back; already she was commenting on the amount of pushback she was getting in the community and from government too!

    You know, I don’t want to paint the whole town with the same brush, especially since some of the people on here are coming to Donna’s defence; consider me one of them.

    Secular education is the societal norm today, and more than that is an essential freedom: to be raised without the senseless indoctrination of the Catholic church. Donna, you are to be applauded for your courage and I hope that all of us would have that courage in the face of such entrenched opposition.

    It’s my real name folks, Anonymous, email me anytime, I’d love to chat with you!

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