By Charles Lefebvre on November 25, 2016.
Medicine Hat News
An appeal regarding a parent’s petition rejected by SD76 will be heard in court next year.
On Thursday, the Court of Queen’s Bench set a date of March 17 for an appeal hearing into the rejection of a petition submitted by a group of parents to SD76. The signatories of the petition were represented in court by Jeremy Williamson and Gerry Prince. Debra Tumbach and Rakhi Pancholi, counsel from the Alberta School Boards Association, represented SD76 via phone. Tumbach and Pancholi stated this was the first time they were aware of an appeal in regards to the School Act.
The appeal was filed Oct. 21. In the affidavit filed, Williamson stated it was his opinion, and the opinion of several of the signatories of the petition, “that a proper evaluation of the petition was not conducted, and inquiries into evidence for the Secretary’s decision have been obstructed.”
Williamson added in the affidavit the interactions and procedural processes acted upon by the SD76 board “has damaged public trust” in the board, and the petition being accepted “will help restore some of that trust.”
The goal of the petition was to force the board to hold a public meeting and for a committee with parents to implement policies 621 and 622 protecting sexual orientation and gender identity in schools and to ensure safe environments at school for LGBTQ students.
The petition stated the parents believe “The direction of the recent policies will have a negative impact on the family,” adding they believe the policies will exclude parents from critical issues affecting children. The petition statement also stated the parents wanted “traditional gender definitions” preserved. SD76 passed broadly-worded LGBTQ policies earlier this year.
The petition was submitted to the board Sept. 19 with 2,030 signatures. A review of the petition from SD76 secretary/treasurer Jerry Labossiere stated 110 signatures were not accepted, as they did not qualify as electors, as their addresses were outside SD76 boundaries or they were Catholic school supporters. Of the remaining 1,920 names, another 259 were deemed non-compliant, due to a lack of address or postal code, according to a letter outlining reasons for the petition’s rejection.
According to Section 269 of the Alberta School Act, a petition to require a public meeting requires a minimum of 2,000 signatures of valid electors in the school district or 25 per cent of parents who are electors at a school.
The petition was officially rejected at the board’s meeting on Oct. 11, with a letter outlining reasons for its rejection.
According to documents submitted to the court, Williamson emailed Labossiere for additional details about why the 110 signatures were deemed insufficient, and received a reply stating no further time would be spent on the petition. Under section 266 of the School Act, if a petition is rejected, the board proceeds as if it was not accepted.
If the petition is rejected, those submitting the petition have 14 days to appeal, the Act states in Section 267. If the appeal is successful, the board will proceed as if the petition was deemed acceptable.
The court told applicants and defendants all affidavits need to be filed by Dec. 16, with cross-examinations due to the court by Jan. 31.