The CCLA is deeply concerned about the situation in Alberta, where a community has been repeatedly denied a public secular school option for their children. The Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division (“GSACRD”) is the public school board in the Greater St. Albert region. This school division offers an education where “Catholic theology, philosophy, practices and beliefs, the principles of the Gospel and teachings of the Catholic Church, are made accessible to students, including in the curriculum of every subject taught, both in and outside of formal religion classes, celebrations and exercises”. Although a Protestant separate school board also operates in some parts of Greater St. Albert and is largely secular, no such schools exist in the towns of Morinville or Legal. Thus, for parents in these two communities, there is simply no secular public option.
CCLA believes that the failure to provide parents with a secular public school option is in violation of constitutional guarantees. The CCLA has also sought clarification from the GSACRD about the legal basis on which it, as a public school, can provide an education that is fully permeated with religion. Alberta law explicitly provides that students are to be permitted to leave the classroom when religious instruction or exercises take place, but a school where religion permeates all activities renders these laws ineffective. The constitutional framework that is relevant in Alberta also appears to preclude an education of this kind.
Most recently, parents in the town of Morinville were told that a secular school option would be made available within their town, by a neighbouring school division. This compromise does not solve the problem, however, since parents who send their children to this school cannot participate in the governance of the school board or even vote for trustees, since they don’t live in the district. In any event, it has recently been suggested that this plan cannot be put in place because it is financially too costly. Parents in this community are once again unsure of whether or how they can secure a public secular education for their children. The CCLA finds this unacceptable and urges the school board to act promptly to ensure that the constitutional rights of parents and students in thier community are respected and a public secular school option is provided.