Media releases | March 11, 2017

EDMONTON—Public Interest Alberta Board Chair Larry Booi stated today that recent letters to the President and Chancellor of the University of Alberta by Catholic boards and superintendents are “a shocking example of an assault on academic freedom in our province.”
 
The letters by the Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association (ACSTA) and Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta (CCSSA) involved an attack on the work of Dr. Kristopher Wells, a University of Alberta professor who worked with Public interest Alberta to produce a review of the policies of four Alberta school boards in regard to protecting the rights of sexual and gender minority students in schools.
 
Booi stated, “Instead of responding to the legitimate criticisms of their policies, the Catholic boards and superintendents took the extraordinary step of going directly to the leaders of the university in an obvious attempt to silence Dr. Wells. This action was not only heavy-handed and misguided – it clearly crossed the line in attempting to pressure the university to limit academic freedom, and this is unconscionable.”
 
Booi stated that he was gratified that the University of Alberta did not accede to the requests, but the issue is extremely serious and further action is required in order to support Dr. Wells and to sanction the actions by the Catholic boards.
 
“It is essential to remember that this whole issue began with an important decision in our Legislature to better protect children and youth in all of Alberta’s schools,” said Booi. “Bill 10, which was designed to ensure protection of sexual and gender minorities in our schools, was brought in by a Progressive Conservative government with the support of all opposition parties. Since that time, the Minister of Education has required all school boards to develop explicit policies to provide those protections - but too many Catholic boards have simply failed to do so.”
 
“Instead of complying with the requirements of the law, the Catholic boards and superintendents collectively have chosen to attack an academic who pointed out the shortcomings in the policies of two Catholic boards, and have engaged in a clear attempt to undermine academic freedom in the process,” said Booi.
 
Booi called on the Minister of Education to intervene in the situation: “This whole situation has dragged on far too long, and things are obviously getting worse. It is definitely time for the minister to step in.  Catholic boards must be clearly informed that they are publicly funded school systems that have an obligation to obey the laws of province. They need to stop trying to silence academics and get on with their responsibilities to develop policies to ensure that all children are safe and supported in our schools, including vulnerable LGBTQ students.”

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