Human rights complaint re Morinville school issue rejected

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – The same week Morinville Public Elementary School students entered their new modular classrooms on École Georges P. Vanier grounds, two parents learned their human rights complaint against Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division No. 29 (GSACRD) and the Ministry of Education had been rejected by the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

Morinville parent Marjorie Kirsop and former Morinville parent Donna Hunter had filed separate complaints last November under section 11.1 of the Alberta Human Rights Act. Hunter filed a separate Section 4 complaint last December and three other parents also filed Section 4 complaints with the AHRC in November and December.

Under the Alberta Human Rights Act, Section 4 deals with discrimination with respect to goods, services, facilities or accommodations, while Section 11.1 deals specifically with notice to parents regarding religious instruction in schools and the removal of students from religious instruction upon parental request.

Hunter said she received a letter Thursday from Audrey Dean, AHRC’s acting director, indicating her Section 11.1 complaint had been rejected, and suggesting the matter would be better dealt with in another forum. The letter has left Hunter saddened by the AHRC’s decision.

“The letter says our submissions have experiences that do cover the protections as indicated in section 11. 1, but the director still finds that it is more appropriate for us to have our children’s rights upheld in another forum,” Hunter said in an e-mail interview with Thursday night. “It’s not the first time we’ve asked for help and been told to go back to the very school board who is denying our rights.”

Hunter said Kirsop’s section 11.1 complaint was also rejected by the AHRC. Mrs. Kirsop is equally frustrated by the decision.

“I’m extremely disappointed as my complaint to the Human Rights Commission was made after many failed attempts to obtain a genuine public education in Morinville,” she said. “After our request for a secular education was denied by our school board in mid-January of 2011, we appealed to the Minister of Education. As of today, we still have not received a response from the Minister of Education in regards to our appeal. And now, we are told by the Human Rights Commission that our complaint is best dealt with by the school board – the very school board who denied our rights in the first place. It’s ironic. It seems we are just going in circles again. Should I be making another appeal to the Minister of Education?”

Although the request to hear the two complaints has been denied, Hunter said she will be requesting a review of the director’s decision by the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals under section 26(1) of the Alberta Human Rights Act.
Hunter said she has not heard as yet whether or not the AHRC will hear her and the other four Section 4 complaint submissions. Similarly, she has also not heard word on when Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk would be making an announcement on what local solution would be made with the three school boards that have been meeting to discuss the Morinville school issue.

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  1. Everyone seems to be passing the buck, assuming the school board will work it out. But if the school board has all the power and the parents have none, the parents are left at the mercy of the board’s whim. If the board is acting in bad faith, which I believe they are, the parents are just out of luck.

    A person’s right to freedom of conscience shouldn’t be something that the majority allows if it’s convenient, if they feel like it.

  2. I agree with the HRC and I agree with the parents to “some” extent but I have to ask why did they decide to move to m-ville, raise a faimily and then check what type of schools were within the city the PARENTS that want the secular school CHOSE to live their NOT the school board.

  3. To those who are “glad” and “extremely happy” with the AHRC decision: I sarcastically say, good for you for having such narrow minds. What good is having HRC if they don’t uphold what they stand for? One way or another, a change will be implemented!! No denying that. Be it now or 10 years from now. I believe truth and knowledge will educate people on this issue and soon your/my own children may be fighting for the same thing….a truly public school system for their children. The only constant IS change and times are changing 🙂

    As for SeanO’s question….people did check into the schools and informed there were PUBLIC schools!! This is likely one of the most repetitive statements/assumptions. MORINVILLE is unique with how the schools operate. If you do your homework and research how many towns/cities in Canada have exclusively Catholic permeated schools with NO OTHER OPTIONS, you might just be shocked! I personally think Morinville over sold itself and put itself in the spotlight in a VERY negative way. Happy researching 🙂

  4. Really disappointing decision from the HRC. I’ve seen many cases that I didn’t even understand why they were before the HRC to begin with, but this one is a real issue that affects a lot of people and would have been a great opportunity for the HRC to prove they are actually capable of making a valuable contribution to this country.

    Instead, they just ‘pass the buck’ on this issue. I don’t understand why this is so hard for the parents involved.

    They want freedom of religion, and are constitutionally promised exactly that. The only feasible option in this town is school that indoctrinate children on one specific religion. Why in the world is this so difficult?

  5. It’s shameful that we wouldn’t make a public education free from religious indoctrination available to each and every child in Alberta.

    Catholics enjoy a historical privilege not shared by anyone else: they have schools that cater to their religion as part of the public system. One would think that they would recognize how very fortunate that privilege makes them, and take pains not to abuse it in order to force their religion on other people’s children.

  6. It might not happen this year, it might not happen next year, or even 5 years from now. But Donna Hunter, Marjorie Kirsop and the rest of the Morinville Delegation will win their battle to have a secular public school in Morinville.

    They have had a valid argument right from the start and they haven’t let any road blocks stop them. They have continued to find different avenues to lead their fight when turned away by different levels of bureaucracy and haven’t let anything stop them yet.

    Keep fighting for what you believe in and some day it will happen.

  7. O.k. That’s done. Can we all move on and quit the whinning? Maybe be thankful for what we have? We have a good system with the best teachers I’ve ever met. This all started with a hatred for all things Catholic. Its time to call a spade a spade. And its also time to move on. And leave the name of the park alone. Does the name “St.John Babptise park” offend you too? Get over yourself and start making positive changes in Morinville. Its a great place to live. Of course, no one is forcing you to stay.

    • Contrary to a news report headline in another local media source, there ARE NO plans to change the name of St. Jean Baptiste Park. A suggestion by one or two people does not a plan make. There is money allocated for a study to redesign the park to make it of greater benefit to the community – landscaping, etc. There was some question about erecting a tower to house an historical bell, but there is no plan to rename the park.

  8. Lisa, there is no such thing as a “truly public school”.People are what they believe. We are all influenced by our surroundings, in school or not. Obviously the HRC has made an objective decision that conflicts with your beliefs. Your beliefs are your religion. That’s why you’re so offended. This goes against what you believe, or your religion. What’s next? Is the HRC not “truly public” enough for you? This is a no win situation. If the schools here changed to all public, which is NO GOD in school, which is what you mean, which would agree with your religion, there would be a large group of people in Morinville that would oppose that. the only thing that makes sense is appealing to the majority, and the majority of people here want to keep things the way they are, because the majority of people here believe in God, as silly as that sounds to you.
    Remember, this not a human rights ordeal anymore, so you can’t use that excuse anymore.

  9. According to another media source, Lisa Holmes brought forth a suggestion to rename the park. Stephen, are you saying that didn’t happen because it came from another media source? What are the people of Morinville to think? Lines are being defined, and this is directly related to the school issue. Catholicism is a part of this town’s history. I’m not Catholic, but I have enough respect to leave it alone. Think for a minute of the seniors of this town. Are we to change the name of every park or building in Canada with a religious reference?
    Times change, History does not.

  10. I’d like to make a couple of points of clarification since my name is being mentioned here directly in some of the previous comments. There is no plan at this time for the Town to rename St. Jean Baptiste Park. I am a member of the Centennial Celebrations Committee and they asked me (because I am also a Town Councillor) to bring forward two ideas to Council on behalf of the committee. One was to build a Centennial Bell Tower in SJB park and the other was to rename it Centennial Park. This was an idea that some members of the Committee had, members who are long-time residents of Morinville. Before anything in our community is renamed there is a long process that it goes through that includes community consultation. Just because the Committee has brought forward this idea does not mean that it will even be considered. The article that was in the other paper left out a lot of facts that were presented and I have clarified this to anyone who has taken the time to call or email and ask me about it. If anyone has any further questions about the Centennial Committee’s plans, email me at and I will forward them onto the Centennial Committee’s President, Monica Bradley.

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