Premier Jim Prentice issued the following statement (Dec 4):
“Ladies and Gentlemen, as you are aware I returned to the province last evening, following meeting with the Premiers of Ontario and Quebec and a meeting this morning with Governor Christie of New Jersey.
“I am here this afternoon to speak to Bill 10 and to respond to your questions.
“Bill 10 is intended to strike a balance on important issues involving:
“- the rights of LGBQT youth
“- the rights of parents to be involved in the education of their children
“- the autonomy of school boards
“- the constitutional rights of separate school boards
“None of this is easy. Rights are difficult and the conflict between competing rights is difficult for all of us. The debate surrounding Bill 10 proves this.
“Such debates are clearly divisive. One cannot have rights without respecting the rights of others. The rights of no citizen are absolute over the rights of another.
“Moreover, conflict between religious freedoms and the rights of LGBQT students involve deeply held views of personal belief.
“The introduction of Bill 10 as a solution to the divisiveness created by Bill 202 has clearly not been helpful.
“I accept personal responsibility for the introduction of Bill 10.
“I felt that the Bill struck an appropriate balance and that it achieved signature advances for the rights of LGBQT students.
“I would point, in particular, to the fact that Bill 10 proposes to explicitly enshrine the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation in the Alberta Bill of Rights. To my knowledge no one else in Canada has done this.
“The Bill also proposes to repeal Section 11.1 of the Human Rights Act which the advocates of Alberta’s LGBQT community have argued is one of the most discriminatory pieces of legislation in Canada.
“The Bill attempts to respect religious freedoms and also enshrines parental rights in the Alberta Bill of Rights.
“No one else in Canada has done the latter.
“Unfortunately, Bill 10 has added to, rather than resolved these divisions.
“I accept personal responsibility for this as I am the Premier.
“I am most disturbed that our LGBQT youth, are caught in the middle of a divisive debate. This they didn’t ask for. And most are simply young people trying to find their way in life and in the life of our Province.
“As Premier, I am Premier for all Albertans which means representing and protecting our religious minorities, and all of our children, including those who are LGBQT.
“At present, there is clearly no consensus in Alberta on either the constitutionality or indeed the wisdom of the provincial government mandating Gay Straight Alliances in schools.
“The issue was polarizing to begin with and has become even more so over the past several days.
“So where to from here?
“Both I and my caucus have heard, loudly and clearly, that Albertans wish there to be further consultation on the substance of Bill 10.
“Bill 10 clearly does not make Gay Straight Alliances mandatory.
“The Bill creates a legislated framework within which students who wish to create Gay Straight Alliances can take such a request forward to the school authority elected to make such decisions.
“In my view, the school boards who are elected to administer schools have the legal responsibility to do so and that includes the obligation to respect the Charter rights of their student bodies.
“There have been few voices supportive of this approach and many opposed. More importantly, many Albertans have expressed the view that this should not be done with haste.
“Accordingly, I have met with my caucus, have heard their concerns and have instructed the Government House Leader to place the third reading of Bill 10 on hold, pending further consultation with Albertans.
“I would thank the members of my caucus who have advocated for the balance that Bill 10 attempts to strike. I want, in particular to acknowledge the leadership, hard work and personal courage of Sandra Jansen who has been responsible for the carriage of Bill 10 in the Legislative Assembly.
“I don’t intend to be specific today on immediate next steps. Given the emotion on all sides of this discussion, I think that everyone will benefit from a pause. Thank you.”