There’s so much going on right now in Alberta politics, it’s hard to know where to focus our attention; personally, I’m getting dizzy. But Bill 207, the de-indexing of AISH, the cuts to education, and Bill 22 to name a few, should remind us we need to find our bearings somehow. It’s too easy to pull the rug out from people who are still reeling from the latest hit.
Simply by being brought forward, Bill 207 — the proposed “conscience rights” legislation that goes above existing regulations to protect medical professionals who refuse to treat patients based on their conscience — has sowed the seeds of harm. Reproductive rights, assisted dying rights, and LGBTQ2 rights, for instance, are up for debate again.
The first reading of a bill is often seen simply as an agreement to study it; the real debate happens after that, so the first often passes unanimously amongst party members. I’ve taught civics, and Grade 9s are quick to grasp this concept of party loyalty. What I didn’t get a chance to teach my students, however, is that private members’ bills usually aren’t this comprehensive, wide-ranging, or threatening. I’d love to hear their questions for our Premier on hearing his defence, that he hadn’t read the bill written by a backbencher and garnering national media attention.
I was pleased to see Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie come out against the legislation. “This bill is wrong,” he said last week, and “just adds red tape." Many of his constituents, myself included, were vocal in our dissent to the very idea of this bill. I like to believe he heard us; but his words need to do more work.
The biggest problem with Bill 207 is not its redundancy, though that’s a valid point — it creates a slippery slope (or a cliff) towards human rights erosions. While Guthrie mentioned it will cause “division and hurt” I’d love to hear him more clearly resist the threats to health access for many already marginalized individuals, and the changes to the Alberta Human Rights Code granting impunity to the medical professionals who refuse to treat them.
I’m reeling from the sheer number of cuts, rollbacks, and changes, but I’m also taking a moment to stop and remember that democracy should not make us dizzy; so I’m counting on Peter Guthrie and other representatives to stay consistent, speak out, and stop this bill from shaking our foundation any further.
- Brianna Sharpe