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Your tax dollars at work: Public funding for religious schools likely helped large anti-abortion march in Edmonton

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The anti-reproductive-rights march in Edmonton. Photo: David J. Climenhaga

Taxpayers' contributions to publicly funded parochial schools appeared to be hard at work yesterday in Edmonton as a throng of students from religious high schools throughout the province marched through the capital city's downtown in opposition to women's reproductive rights.

The annual anti-abortion March for Life sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church was led through the streets around the Alberta legislature by a dozen or so members of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men's lodge, but the majority of the 1,000 or so marchers were made up of high school students bused into town from places like Red Deer and Barrhead, and the teachers who shepherded them.

In at least some cases, busing costs appear to have been paid by school districts -- as were the costs of substitute teachers to hold classes for students who chose for whatever reason not to participate in the march.

A letter to parents at St. Joseph High School in Red Deer encouraging attendance in the march by their children noted that there would be no cost to participants in the event beyond the need to pack a lunch and purchase their own fast-food dinner in Leduc on the way home.

Needless to say, regardless of their personal beliefs, most young people would be delighted with the opportunity for such an outing on a warm spring day in the company of their peers. Yellow school buses with the names of religious high schools could be observed parked on streets near the legislature.

St. Joseph High is part of Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division, the former chair of which is now Premier Jason Kenney's minister of education. Before her election as chair of the Catholic school division, Adriana LaGrange was president of Red Deer Pro Life, an anti-abortion group.

The so-called Wilberforce Project -- William Wilberforce was an 18th and 19th-century opponent of the slave trade -- actively campaigned for anti-choice activists like LaGrange who were seeking UCP nominations, although it refuses to say, and no one in mainstream media seems to have tried to find out to find out how many of the group's favoured candidates were elected.

Well, just-elected Peace River UCP MLA Dan Williams posted a social media message proclaiming his participation in the march, so that's one name that can presumably be added to the list.

Kenney himself, a lifelong anti-abortion crusader, insisted again today he has no intention of revisiting the issue. For the time being, the acid test of that intention, will be on the regulatory fringes of reproductive rights. For example, availability of contraception to young people and what health services get delisted in the new government's campaign to cut public spending.

In Alabama, meanwhile, the anti-reproductive-rights crusade has gone farther. A near-total ban on abortion could be voted on as soon as Tuesday in the state legislature. Under the bill, a physician caught performing abortions could be sentenced to up to 99 years in prison. The bill provides no exceptions, even in cases of rape or incest.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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