ST. PAUL - Anti-mask and anti-mandate protests and demonstrations have been held at - or near - schools across the province over the past week, including locally where at least three "protests" were held at schools within the St. Paul Education region on Friday.
St. Paul Education Superintendent Glen Brodziak confirmed on Monday that protests took place at three division schools in the communities of Mallaig, Elk Point and Two Hills, "and the non-mask compliance spilled into the schools."
On Monday afternoon, Brodziak sent a message to parents regarding the protests, via email.
"Over the past few days, we have seen an increase in students refusing to wear their masks while in school. These incidents are causing unnecessary anxiety and stress in our schools and in no way support an environment for learning," said Brodziak.
"It is very unfortunate that our students and staff have been put in the middle of a political debate in which school divisions do not have the authority to make changes. We strongly encourage all community members who have concerns with the current mandates to contact their local members of government, and not our teachers and students," he added.
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An announcement from Premier Jason Kenney is anticipated this week regarding public health measures.
"Until such time, we are bound by the CMOH (Chief Medical Officer of Health) Order 55-2021, signed Dec. 16, 2021. Part 13 applies to schools, of which we are legally bound to adhere to," explained Brodziak.
Responding to incidents taking place across the province, Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) President Jason Schilling released a statement, calling on the provincial government to "urgently and unequivocally assert that the province’s schools should be strictly out of bounds for protests."
“Premier Kenney and Minister LaGrange must state clearly and publicly that conducting these protests at schools is unacceptable. While we recognize the right to peaceful and orderly assembly, protests against government policy should take place in more appropriate places and be directed towards those making the decisions," said Schilling.
He added, “This is not about the particular issues of concern to these particular protesters. It is about ensuring that schools are safe and caring places for all students, recognizing that for some, the school is the only safe space they have. Teachers too, like all other workers, have the right to a safe workplace.”
Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange released a statement on the issue, saying, "While all Canadians have a right to protest and express themselves, protests must be peaceful and within the confines of the law."
She noted that schools are not the place to protest public health measures, and the events disrupt the education of students.
"Furthermore, unauthorized trespass on school property is unlawful," said LaGrange. She encouraged people who have chosen to hold protests at schools to stop immediately.