Donna Hunter is a fighter. She’s been fighting for years now to get just one secular school in Morinville, Alberta (Canada) — and she’s only one of several mothers fighting for that cause. Right now, the Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools manages all four of the schools in the area, leaving non-religious parents with no alternatives.
Last I heard, there was actually going to be a secular alternative, but it doesn’t look like that’s panning out. They just got denied by — of all places — the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
The Alberta Human Rights Commission has refused to deal with two complaints filed by parents who are fighting for a non-religious schooling option in Morinville.
Donna Hunter and Marjorie Kirsop received letters from the commission Thursday telling them to take their complaints to “another forum” such as the province’s School Act.
Kirsop and Hunter filed their human-rights complaints late last year, alleging their non-Catholic children were discriminated against because they have not been allowed to opt out of religious instruction in a system where Catholic doctrine permeates the school day.
Kirsop isn’t sure how to proceed anymore since she’s just going around in circles:
“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?”
It’s a little hard for me to wrap my mind around what’s happening since I haven’t followed this story too closely and I’m not very clear on Canadian laws regarding education and religion. Some of the Canadian readers out there might be able to help us understand the issues a bit more — what happened in Morinville and what courses of action are left to take?
Reader Edwin adds this bit of relevant information via email:
… there was a provincial law enacted in 1905 that guarantees the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer and only recognizes the Roman Catholic and Church of England teachings in public schools… It was a condition of the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan joining Canada. It actually overrides our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (our Constitution).
On a side note, there’s a nice interview with Donna Hunter here.