The pro-life group at the centre of a controversy over a school presentation is not backing down.
Red Deer and Area Pro-Life showed a video last month to Grade 10 Catholic students comparing abortion to the Holocaust.
The video references the Auschwitz death camp and Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s “scheme by which severely disabled children could be murdered.”
“Then once the war began,” the video’s subtitles read, “this killing was extended to disabled adults as well (and then to all ‘unwanted’ persons).”
Sex education advocates say the presentation also contained myths and scare tactics about abortion and is evidence that third-party groups need tighter vetting.
“We think the comparison is valid,” said Joel Soodsma, board member for Red Deer and Area Pro-Life.
“We are just a little disappointed in the minister of education for calling it ‘hateful propaganda.’
“We’re obviously speaking for the babies, the unborn, and I don’t think anybody in Canada hates babies – certainly not us. So why it was ‘hateful’, we don’t understand, and why it was ‘propaganda’ – if it’s not a fair comparison, then show us that, but we think it is.”
Scroll down to read the letter Red Deer and Area Pro-Life sent to the education minister.
The school board said Tuesday it won’t let the group show the video again but Red Deer and Area Pro-Life is not banned from future presentations.
Watch below: A Red Deer Catholic high school has been blasted by the education minister following a pro-life presentation which compared abortion to the Holocaust. Kendra Slugoski reports.
Soodsma said the group does not plan to change its approach in this or other school presentations.
“I’m not sure we’ll show the video again but I’m certain we’ll use the comparison,” said Soodsma, who pointed out that this is the first year the group has used this video.
“As far as the Red Deer Catholic school, I can understand where they don’t want a lot of backlash for what’s done in the classroom and this is the type of issue where there’s going to be varying opinions, strong opinions.”
Scroll down to read the full statement from Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools.
Education MinIster David Eggen said the district is investigating.
“It’s completely outrageous. I was offended,” Eggen said Tuesday.
“The Red Deer and Area Pro-Life group presenting in schools – I have a big problem with that too.”
The minister said the district dropped the ball on this. He’s asked Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools to explain how, why and when the presentation took place.
“They let this thing slip through. It’s not good for kids to be presented inaccurate information. It’s outrageous to the general public that someone would make a connection between abortion and the Holocaust.
“It doesn’t belong in our schools.”
“It doesn’t belong there and if it’s being used anywhere else here across the province, I want to hear about it immediately,” Eggen said.
“The presentation was inappropriate and misleading, using incorrect information and, quite frankly, frightening.”
On Wednesday, Christian advocacy group ARPA (Association for Reformed Political Action) Canada welcomed a province-wide investigation into third-party presenters in Alberta schools.
ARPA said it has been advocating for “an inquiry into what is being taught to — and even forced on — Alberta students” but that the minister has not been receptive.
“The sad truth is that Alberta’s ministry of education is the party most guilty of promoting propaganda in provincial schools,” ARPA Executive Director Mark Penninga said in a news release.
Letter from Red Deer Pro-Life group to minister:
Dear Minister David Eggen,
My name is Jonathan Soodsma and I am president of Red Deer Pro-life. As the name suggests we are a pro-life organization located in the Red Deer area that provides, among other things, presentations at local schools on the difficult issue of abortion. We know from science and the medical community that life begins at the moment of conception. Abortion is defined as the deliberate killing of pre-born human life in the womb. We believe that human life, especially innocent human life, ought to be protected. That is why we work to educate people on what abortion does. So why is abortion so broadly accepted? Largely because of the false notion that pre-born are not human. In other words, the de-humanizing of pre-born children. Talking about how dehumanization makes legal and cultural discrimination possible is a very sensitive topic, but as pro-lifers we think it is important that students tackle this issue. In the past, discrimination has led to the targeting of racial, religious and sexual minorities. Just as it was intolerably wrong when these groups were discriminated against and persecuted, it is wrong when that same dehumanization and discrimination and persecution is done to pre-born babies.
Education involves preparing students to think critically and to exchange viewpoints. As a former educator, I’m sure you’ll agree that seeing students digest differing viewpoints and sifting through evidence is a worthwhile experience.
Today we see troubling developments in education in Alberta. There is growing worry that our government is applying a narrow approach to the curriculum to be taught K-12 students in the province of Alberta. Instead of fostering an educational environment that respects a diversity of views, government will impose a “one-size-fits-all” approach which will not tolerate/examine/put forth/allow any views contrary to its own — particularly in matters of sex and sexuality. Pregnancy is a consequence of sex, therefore teaching children about sex and pregnancy has an impact on what is taught about abortion. The ethical subject matter of our presentations is challenging. A student’s ability to make an informed judgement on ethical issues requires input from those who truly care for them – their parents and caregivers. The importance of involving parents in these discussions is critical. We encourage parents to attend the presentations. We hope that the Ministry of Education will give us some reassurance that the intended curriculum rewrite will not be ideologically charged. In particular, we are hoping that the new curriculum will not be the strategy used to advance an extremist sexual ideology which dehumanizes vulnerable people (preborn, severely disabled, depressed or elderly) and depicts euthanasia and abortion as safe and ethical. After all, a hostile tone towards traditional values could result in making schools an unsafe space for many people: Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, Christian and atheist pro-life students. It is important that all students feel like their beliefs in matters of conscience will not cause them to be singled out for ridicule or bullying.
The curriculum rewrite and the tone and attitude of the Ministry of Education will be crucial in continuing to make schools in Alberta a safe welcoming environment for all students.
We hope that the Ministry will take these brief comments into consideration and will be able to assuage us of these concerns.
On Behalf of Red Deer Pro-Life
Statement from Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools:
— with files from Emily Mertz, Global News