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 MorinvilleNews.com 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.