May 26, 2009
Edmonton – Flanked by Albertans opposed to the parental opt-out provisions of Bill 44 and several Alberta Liberal MLAs, Dr. David Swann, Leader of the Official Opposition, challenged Premier Stelmach to allow Tory MLAs a free vote on the controversial bill.
“We know that several Tory MLAs are very uncomfortable about the sections of this bill that damage our public education system,” Swann said. “I believe the Premier should allow his MLAs to follow their consciences today by allowing a free vote.” Swann will allow his own MLAs to vote freely on the bill.
Citizens concerned about free speech joined Dr. Swann in condemning the bill at the Legislature today.
“The Alberta Teachers Association, the Sheldon Chumir Foundation, the Alberta and Northwest Conference of the United Church, the Centre for Inquiry and other organizations have all issued strong statements opposing this bill,” said Laurie Blakeman, Shadow Minister of Culture and Community Spirit.
“Under the School Act, parents already have the ability to pull their children from classes on sexuality or religion,” Swann said. “But if the Premier enshrines this ability as a right, he will expose teachers to the spectre of lawsuits from offended parents. Premier Stelmach’s Bill 44 will have a profound chilling effect on classroom discussion.”
The Alberta Liberals have introduced several amendments to the bill, including amendments to protect free speech and remove the opt-out clause. Yesterday Culture and Community Spirit Minister Lindsay Blackett said that the government would amend the bill, but made no promises that the opt-out clause would be removed.
To read what the Calgary Herald wrote about this click here