Satirical short film pokes fun at Alberta’s Bill 44

Law lets parents pull kids from classes on sexuality

A new satirical short film pokes fun at Alberta’s Bill 44 — legislation that allows parents to pull their kids from classes on sexuality and sexual orientation.

Although Bill 44 became law last month, a group of artists recently produced a humorous video — in the style of a public service announcement — to express their dissent. Entitled Smaller Classes, Smaller Minds, the film suggests teachers can use the new law to reduce class sizes, simply by adding queer content to every lesson plan. Watch the video below:

Alberta-based artist and writer T L Cowan came up with the idea, and the project quickly took shape after she approached Alissa Overend, Danielle Peers and Melisa Brittain to see if they wanted to commit the concept to video. Together the group worked on the script over email for a few days, shot and edited the film over two weeks, and then released the video via YouTube.

For Peers, the project was a chance to discuss Bill 44 in a different and refreshing way. As she describes it, “it was a relief to engage [with Bill 44] beyond frustration.”

Passed into law last month by the Alberta Progressive Conservative government, Bill 44 fully enshrines sexual orientation into Alberta’s Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act (HRCMA) more than a decade after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the province must do so. However, the bill also created a provision under the HRCMA that allows parents to take their children out of classes on religion, sexuality or sexual orientation. This provision is already part of the provinces’ school act.

Reaction to Smaller Classes, Smaller Minds so far has been positive. Jennifer Alabiso, board chair of Exposure: Edmonton’s Queer Arts and Culture Festival thinks that using art to create dissent is the way to go. “These artists use the perfect tools: humour and honesty to deflate an untenable situation,” says Alabiso of the filmmakers. “I say brava!”

As a mother and a lesbian, Alabiso is not done discussing Bill 44, even though the bill is now law. “As a mum, especially a mum with a 13-year-old son whose classmates regularly use language which denies or denigrates his mother, I find Bill 44 mind boggling,” says Albiso. “How will students ever learn that fag is not just another word for lame, if whenever we discuss the topic of homosexuality?”

Playing off the idea of DIY culture, Peers describes the process of making the film as DIWYC (do it with your community), noting that the film would not have been possible without the help of fellow collaborators, friends who let them use space at the University of Alberta, and the assistance of the Intermedia Research Studio.


Peers, Brittain, Overend and Cowan have worked together before on a video titled GIMP Boot Camp, which looks at able-bodiedness and disability using humour and the PSA format. Peers and Brittain run King Crip Productions, and in collaboration with writer and artist Shani Mootoo, the group is in post production for their documentary …And the Rest is Drag. According to their website, the doc “explores the sub-cultural performance genre of drag kinging through the eyes of the Alberta Beef Drag King Troupe.”

Exposure: Edmonton’s Queer Arts and Culture Festival.

Danielle Peers.

King Crip Productions.

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