Three questions on the "P.T. v Alberta" schools case

12 November 2018

The EFC is intervening in a new religious freedom case in Alberta. As part of our Three Questions Series, we asked for a quick introduction from a lawyer working on the case for the EFC. Albertos Polizogopoulos is a partner with Vincent Dagenais Gibson LLP in Ottawa.

Q1. The EFC is intervening in this P.T. et al v Alberta case. What is the case about?

Bill 24 imposes many obligations on all Alberta schools, including independent faith-based schools. Some of those obligations include the creation and operation of Gay-Straight Alliance clubs and a requirement that schools not communicate certain information to parents about their children, including whether or not the child attends a GSA club or is questioning his or her gender identity. A group of parents and independent Christian schools have challenged portion of Bill 24 as being unconstitutional because it violates their parental rights, freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

Q2. Why does this case matter?

Parental rights and religious freedom in education are at stake. At this stage, the court is considering an appeal of a decision to not grant a temporary injunction which would have suspended the application of some portions of the legislation to some independent Christian schools. The EFC’s intervention focuses on what the Court should look at when it considers granting an injunction which would protect religious freedom.

Q3. What impact will this case have on Christians?

At this stage of the proceeding, the issue before the Court is not the constitutionality of Bill 24 or whether it is good or bad legislation. Instead, the Court is considering a procedural issue related to the injunction sought. Injunctions are generally sought in commercial cases and are usually very difficult to obtain. Here however, the injunction would have preserved Charter rights and so the EFC is arguing that it is not appropriate to apply a legal test created to deal with commercial cases. This case won’t have an immediate impact on Christians in Alberta or across Canada, but it will have a profound impact on the law as it relates to religious freedom, and so the potential implications are far-reaching.