rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

What exactly is the 'compromise' Jason Kenney thinks the NDP should make on sexual minority rights?

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Where exactly is this "sensible Alberta compromise" Jason Kenney advises the province's New Democratic Party government to work out with religious schools determined not to allow the gay, lesbian and transgender children they teach to form anti-bullying clubs as the law requires?

"I would hope that the Alberta government would seek a generous, sensible, balanced approach," the social conservative candidate for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party told a meeting of supporters in Calgary Friday.

Accusing Education Minister David Eggen of trying, in the words of the CBC's reporter, "to score political points," Kenney went on to say, "I think he should take a more measured approach." Mr. Eggen and his officials, he added, "ought to meet with any schools in question and work out a sensible Alberta compromise or solution." (Emphasis added.)

The two such schools in question right now, run by Baptist clergyman Brian Coldwell in the Edmonton area, have openly defied the law and said they will never obey a requirement to permit anti-bullying clubs if students request them, so it's not clear where a compromise might be found. Defenders of the legislation have called for the schools to be defunded if they won't comply with the law.

It would clearly work for social conservative politicians like Kenney if there was a general rebellion against the NDP government by religious schools, and there is evidence they are working behind the scenes to foment one.

Accusing Eggen of political grandstanding, under these circumstances, is deeply ironic. The education minister is standing up for an important human rights principle at considerable political risk to himself and his party. It is, of course, Kenney who is trying to score cheap political points, and, because he won't tell us exactly what he has in mind, low-risk ones at that.

Since Kenney played a big role in the federal Tory call for a ban on religious headscarves (at least when they're not being worn by Christian women) and mean-spirited cuts to health care for refugee applicants during the last desperate months of the Harper regime in Ottawa, we know he is capable of grandstanding politically with the worst of them.

The most irritating part of Friday's incomplete CBC story was that Kenney appears to have made no effort to clarify what form he thinks the compromise he advocates should take. It's always possible he did say something and the CBC reporter left it out for some reason. Still, given his history it seems likely Kenney did no such thing.

So when he tries to sound just as reasonable as can be and says, "there is a balance of interests and rights here and I think it's important for the government to respect that balance, to be prudent and thoughtful and balanced in the approach it takes," it's reasonable to wonder exactly what balance he has in mind?

We have had for years in this province a situation in which it was considered quite reasonable by many people to bully, harass, shun and sometimes violently assault our fellow citizens who are members of sexual minorities. Often this was done in the name of God.

Along comes an NDP government, and what do they do? They have enforced an imperfect PC law passed in March 2015 that, to paraphrase what Kenney says it ought to do, tried to balance fundamental rights to free association, freedom of religion, and life, liberty and security of the person in a prudent, thoughtful and balanced way. Since then, the NDP has passed amendments to the Human Rights Act to specifically protect citizens from discrimination on grounds of "gender identity" and "gender expression," further inflaming the religious right.

Kenney, apparently, thinks the NDP needs to compromise, to push the law back to some point where sexual minorities have fewer rights and bigots who practice their bigotry in the name of religion have more scope for their anti-social behaviour.

So he owes it to Albertans who may some day consider voting for him to tell us just how far he thinks these modest legal protections should be pushed back. Under Kenney's "compromise," will the line be drawn somewhere between threats and actual violence? Will cultish "treatments" that try to "cure" gay people -- violating their fundamental right to security of the person -- be allowed or even encouraged?

Where is this "compromise," Mr. Kenney? Where is it?

Personally, I think the NDP's law doesn't go far enough. We all know that in a hermetically sealed religious community that runs its own private schools (no names, of course) it would not be healthy in any way for a young person to ask for a gay-straight alliance to be set up in his or her school -- no matter what the law says.

This universally understood reality is more evidence the public brouhaha stirred up by the two Edmonton-area Christian schools is politically motivated, and done to help social conservative politicians like Kenney.

In the name of freedom of religion, there appear to be no restrictions whatsoever on what these schools may teach their students other than a vague requirement they take into account the provincial curriculum. They could be teaching anything, and I'd wager some of them are! So how is this different from the religious schools in other countries that we regularly get our knickers in a twist about? Other than the fact, of course, that many of those foreign madrassas are mostly not supported by anyone's taxes, as ours are.

Not only are Albertans within their rights to demand Kenney tell them clearly where he thinks this compromise he advocates ought to be, but we would not be out of line to ask the CBC and other news organizations to properly cover this story, instead of just providing cover for Kenney. They should start by asking him the obvious questions, and press him on the answers if he won't respond.

We already know Kenney has indicated to such groups he thinks funding religious schools is an appropriate use for our tax dollars. Surely we deserve to know what he thinks they should be allowed to teach and do in their tax-supported classrooms.

While we're at it, we also might ask Kenney, who throughout his adult life has been a strong and vocal opponent of women's reproductive freedom, if he thinks there ought to be a similar "compromise" by our governments, federal and provincial, in that matter, or if we have found the right balance?

For example, does he think access to abortions should be de-funded by the provincial health authority? Does he think reproductive rights advocates should have their free speech rights curtailed when they're on the campus of a religious school, or elsewhere?

Unless he's changed his mind, he doesn't seem to have any problem at all with restricting the free expression and free association of people he disagrees with -- it's what he advocated as a student at the University of San Francisco in 1988 and it's what he actually did as minister of immigration in 2009.

So it would also be reasonable to ask Kenney if he wants to seek a "compromise" that further restricts Albertans' right to access abortion services and their freedom to advocate for it.

These days, Kenney is driving around our province in his nice new Tory blue pickup truck as he campaigns to lead the PCs. He's doing it on your dime as a federal taxpayer, too. So you're well within your rights to show up at his meetings and ask him these questions.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.