Bishop Fred Henry


March 7, 2016

A sure sign that spring is near, according to Parks Canada, is the sight of the first grizzly bear of the season coming out of winter hibernation.

As this natural process unfolds, it is an apt time to review the recommended bear safety tips for people visiting mountain parks: Ensure pets are on a leash while out walking; travel in groups and make noise; have bear spray within reach and know how to use it.

The number one safety tip is "Knowing how to reduce an encounter before it happens, as that is good for people and good for bears."

This latter safety tip would also make good sense in politics. Probably, the worst thing you could do would be to poke and prod a hibernating bear, or the majority of the population, especially parents and educators, with a stick.

Alas, the Guidelines for Best Practice regarding Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions from Alberta Education do precisely that.

The stick or underlying principle is "Self-identification is the sole measure of an individual's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression."

This is simply not congruent with Catholic teaching on human sexuality. Gender identity is determined at conception, genetically, anatomically and chromosomally.

The ministry's underlying principle leads to a subset of so-called "best practices," for example:

"No student or family should be referred to programs which purport to 'fix,' 'change' or 'repair' a student's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression."

"Some individuals may not feel included in the use of the pronouns "he" or "she" and may prefer alternate pronouns, such as "ze," "zir," "hir," "they" or "them," or might wish to express themselves or self-identify in other ways (e.g., Mx. instead or Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Miss, or no prefix at all)."

"School forms, websites, letters, and other communications use non-gendered and inclusive language (e.g., parents/guardians, caregivers, families, partners, "student" or "their" instead of Mr., Ms., Mrs., mother, father, him, her, etc.)."

"If a human sexuality class is organized by gender, students are able to choose which class they participate in."


"Students with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions have a right to accommodation when it comes to the use of washroom and change room facilities that are congruent with their gender identity. This applies during school time and school-related activities on and off school property (such as field trips and athletic events)."

If your premise is incorrect, in all likelihood, your conclusions will also be invalid.

It doesn't help when the ministry doubles-down with comments such as "But that protection (religious) has never allowed faith-based edicts to compromise the letter of the law."

Poor suggestions

The guidelines do not have the force of law. They are suggestions and not very good ones.

A much more interesting and relevant question is what should be done if a law is seriously and fundamentally flawed?

For example, Bill 10, in effect, empowers a 12-year-old (theoretically), whom society doesn't consider mature enough to get a driver's licence or to vote, to establish education policy without parental involvement, the elected trustees' approval and even contrary to the experienced direction of a master teacher or principal.


That's simply absurd and it would be immoral to follow such legislation.

Further, all Canadians, including Alberta Education, must also be in compliance with the law which goes well beyond Bill 10. The doctrine that Catholic schools are entitled to permeate Catholicity, Catholic teaching and Catholic dogma in all aspects of its curriculum has been specifically recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in Hirsch (1926), Greater Hull (1984), Greater Montreal (1989), Mahe (1990) and Loyola (2015).

However, this is not just a Catholic issue but a parental issue. The government is engaged in social re-engineering, imposing an ideology and indoctrinating children without parental consultation, input and support.


In conclusion, I would offer this advice to the minister of education:

If you encounter a bear on the trail, or in your campsite, stop what you are doing and evaluate the situation. Identify yourself by speaking in a calm, appeasing tone. Back away slowly, preferably in the direction you came.

Walk, don't run, and keep your eye on the bear so you can see how it will react. In most cases, the bear will flee - unless it perceives that its cubs are at risk. In that case, pray!