April 24, 2012

ANTI-BULLYING INITIATIVES

Mr. Yasir Naqvi: Thanks to Jer’s Vision, I have received a petition with thousands of signatures in support of Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act.

“Whereas all Ontario students have the right to a school environment where they feel safe, welcome and respected;

“Whereas school boards must take preventative measures against bullies and issue tougher consequences for those who participate in bullying;

“Whereas creating a safe and positive learning environment is an essential part of helping students succeed in school;

“Whereas schools across the province must support any group promoting understanding and respect for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities;

“We, the undersigned, believe in supporting all students who experience bullying in our schools. We feel the Accepting Schools Act (Bill 13) will make a real difference in the lives of youth in our community and especially LGBTQ youth.”

Speaker, I agree with this petition, affix my signature and send it via page Dia.

ANTI-BULLYING INITIATIVES

Mr. Frank Klees: I have a petition from my constituent Cynthia Bultje of Newmarket, and I read it into the record.

“Petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to amend Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act.

“Whereas Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, by identifying only four specific groups and using primarily homosexual and gender issue bullying examples, provides a narrow focus to the bullying issue; and

“Whereas this should not be a legislation designed to appease a special-interest group or address a narrow political agenda; and

“Whereas it has not been proven that the special-status clubs will lead to a more inclusive environment; and

“Whereas the legislation will result in curriculum that may be in conflict with the values of various faith families; and

“Whereas the legislation, as stated by the Minister of Education (Laurel Broten) during her speech at second reading, is intended to ‘change the attitudes of society’ rather than addressing the wrongful actions of the bully; and

“Whereas churches and traditional-principled schools renting publicly funded school facilities would be forced to abide by an undefined ‘provincial code of conduct’ which could be in opposition to their ‘constitutionally protected faith’; and

“Whereas the legislation will interfere with the right of Catholics to create an education environment that is consistent with their faith;

“We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to amend Bill 13 to address these issues:

“Broaden the legislation to uphold the worth of all children who may be bullied for all reasons;

“Send the message that the bully’s actions are wrong for any reason, regardless of why they target the victim;

“Require tenants renting public school facilities to follow federal and provincial laws, rather than an undefined provincial code of conduct;

“Require school boards to respect the federally protected rights of all faith groups, as children from these groups are often bullied by their peers, the community and the governments;

“Remove references to the formation of specific clubs for certain groups (these clubs are not proven to lead to a more equitable environment) and place the emphasis on correcting the wrongful actions of the bullies;

“Include statements protecting the rights of all people, including the religious rights of individuals and groups—a segment of society that is often bullied because of its convictions;

“Ensure accommodation for any child whose parent identifies the curriculum to be in conflict with the values taught at home.”

ANTI-BULLYING INITIATIVES

Ms. Soo Wong: I have a petition from Scarborough–Agincourt addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario which states:

“Whereas creating a safe and positive learning environment is an essential part of helping students succeed in school;

“Whereas bullying, homophobia and gender-based violence are unacceptable;

“Whereas we need to do more than just tell bullied kids it gets better—we need to work together to make it better now;

“Whereas the Accepting Schools Act would, if passed, help to end bullying in our schools;

“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“That the elected members of all parties help make our schools safer and more inclusive by supporting the Accepting Schools Act.”

I fully support this petition. I will affix my signature and send it with Constantine.

ACCEPTING SCHOOLS ACT, 2012 /
LOI DE 2012 POUR
DES ÉCOLES TOLÉRANTES

Resuming the debate adjourned on April 19, 2012, on the motion for second reading of the following bill:

Bill 13, An Act to amend the Education Act with respect to bullying and other matters / Projet de loi 13, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l’éducation en ce qui a trait à l’intimidation et à d’autres questions.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): Further debate?

Mr. Victor Fedeli: I rise today to speak to Bill 13, which, as the members of this House are well aware, attempts to tackle the serious problem with bullying in our schools. While its goal is indeed admirable and the purpose noble, there is a better way, and I believe that better path is to adopt Bill 14, proposed by my PC colleague the member from Kitchener–Waterloo, after taking literally years to consult and do research to come up with her legislation.

Speaker, this debate is about publicly funded schools having the means and the mechanisms available to both students and educators to tackle and eliminate bullying in whatever form that bullying may take. No student should be bullied for any reason. It’s my sincere belief that when holding both Bill 13 and Bill 14 up to serious and objective scrutiny, Bill 14, the PC bill, is a more comprehensive and thus stronger piece of legislation to deal with the scourge of bullying in our schools.

Bill 14 focuses on three areas: prevention, accountability and awareness. It gives students, parents and educators a strategy to raise awareness and prevent bullying. But it goes further than that. It also offers up a process to resolve the conflict, collect data and report to the Ministry of Education. As well, the definition of “bullying” in Bill 14 is far more comprehensive and focuses on the behaviour of the bully as well as the impact on the victim. Sadly, Bill 13 does neither of those things. How are we to know how serious the problem is, whether it’s getting better or worse, if there’s no mechanism or system in place to track these incidents?

But there’s one more area where our Bill 14 rises to the occasion. It’s an area I’m going to take some time and expand on here. It has a concise definition of “cyberbullying.” This is an absolute imperative of any anti-bullying legislation that should pass this House. It’s such a huge part of what we’re dealing with here. Passing an anti-bullying bill in the year 2012 without it would be like trying to split the atom by rubbing two sticks together.

An Ipsos Reid survey of Canadian teens done last year came up with the following findings with regards to cyberbullying: One in five Canadian teens has witnessed online bullying; 25% of kids between 12 and 15 have witnessed cyberbullying; 25% of girls and 17% of boys have witnessed online harassment; 51% of all teens have had negative experiences with social networking; 16% said someone posted an embarrassing photo of them; 12% had said someone had hacked their social media account.

As well, according to Pew Research statistics posted by Microsoft, two in five American parents report their child has been involved in a cyberbullying incident, and one in four educators have been cyberharassment victims themselves.

Speaker, educators surveyed consider cyberbullying as big an issue as smoking and drugs. Some 38% of girls online report being bullied, compared to 26% of online boys.

To not even acknowledge cyberbullying with a formal definition in the bill is more than a glaring oversight; it’s a fundamental deficiency. Frankly, Bill 13 falls short in many areas and is incomplete. In short, it does not address the root cause of bullying.

Our party strongly believes in tackling bullying head on. Unlike Bill 13, our bill does exactly that, and in four critical areas. First, Bill 14 deals with both the reporting and the investigation of bullying incidents in our schools. Next, it makes school officials and boards accountable directly to the ministry when it comes to bullying. It also has an education and a public awareness component that is perhaps the most critical element of all when it comes to the prevention of bullying. Finally, Bill 14 makes an accommodation for remedial education for bullies to teach them that bullying is unacceptable.

Our bill also requires that anti-bullying lessons be incorporated in the provincial curriculum from JK to grade 12. Again, this is an area where Bill 13 falls short. It’s inconceivable to me that a piece of legislation aimed at anti-bullying, at ending bullying, would overlook this incredibly important piece of the puzzle.

I also want to point out that we have made genuine efforts with members opposite to negotiate a marriage of these two pieces of legislation, Bill 13 and Bill 14, to make our schools the safest possible place for our children to grow and learn. Instead, we get incendiary quotes from the minister that, quite frankly, misrepresent reality and do nothing but poison the spirit of co-operation that should take precedence on an issue that’s so important to the safety and well-being of Ontario’s children. Sadly, the members opposite have refused to compromise in any meaningful way, and would rather resort to chest-thumping than brainstorming a solution.

In closing, I would like to pay tribute to a school in my riding, école Odyssée in North Bay, and in particular to teacher Sylvie Vannier. Sylvie and the students at Odyssée have been at the forefront of the anti-bullying movement that we’ve seen swelling over the last year. They started an anti-bullying Twitter account even before these two pieces of legislation were brought before the House. You can find it at @nonaubullying.

I can tell you, Sylvie is incredibly dedicated to this cause, and her students have rallied around her efforts. To her and them, I offer my heartfelt congratulations on being a shining light in this fight against bullying. I urge Sylvie Vannier and the students at école Odyssée to continue in making a difference. I hope other schools in my riding and across Ontario can follow their example.

Right at this moment, in committee room 1, the Standing Committee on Social Policy is meeting to consider Bill 14. I am pleased to see that, but I also believe that we should be having an all-party select committee on Ornge. I move adjournment of the debate.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): The member for Nipissing has moved adjournment of the debate. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say “aye.”

All those opposed, say “nay.”

In my opinion, the nays have it.

Call in the members. This will be a 30-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1612 to 1642.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): I’d ask all members to take their places.

Mr. Fedeli has moved adjournment of the debate.

All in favour, please rise and be counted by the Clerk.

All those opposed, please stand and be counted by the Clerk.

The Clerk of the Assembly (Ms. Deborah Deller): The ayes are 28; the nays are 43.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): I declare the motion lost.

The member for Nipissing.

Mr. Victor Fedeli: Speaker, I would urge all members to honour their commitment to an all-party select committee, and I ask for adjournment of the House.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): Mr. Fedeli has moved adjournment of the House. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour will say “aye.”

All those opposed will say “nay.”

In my opinion, the nays have it.

This will be a 30-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1644 to 1714.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): I’d ask all members to take their seats. Order.

Mr. Fedeli has moved adjournment of the debate. All those in favour, please rise.

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): Adjournment of the House. Isn’t that what I said? No?

All those opposed, please rise and be counted by the table.

The Clerk of the Assembly (Ms. Deborah Deller): The ayes are 23; the nays are 37.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): I declare the motion lost.

Questions and comments? The member for Scarborough–Agincourt.

Ms. Soo Wong: I rise here to speak in support of Bill 13. The member from Nipissing, in his remarks about the cyberbullying—in the bill, section 2 says specifically that the definition of bullying includes electronic. So, clearly, the bill does talk about cyberbullying.

The other piece I want to share with the House, Madam Speaker, is that last Friday I had an opportunity to visit Mr. Pollard and the grade 6 students at Kennedy Public School, because the students at that particular school were concerned about Bill 13. They had numerous questions for me, but they fully support this piece of legislation. One student, Cindy, said to me, “Why are the politicians at Queen’s Park not taking this bill seriously and, furthermore, why are they not passing the bill?”

At the end of the day, not only is this bill important for our children, the Toronto Star, last Saturday, in the—

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): Order. I’d ask all members who have conversations going on at this time to either cease or take them outside the chamber.

The member for Scarborough–Agincourt.

Ms. Soo Wong: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Last Saturday, the Toronto Star spoke very clearly to all of us. They said, “If ever there were a” bill “that deserved to pass quickly and in a non-partisan manner, it’s this one.” The article also makes reference to these facts: “Bullying is a cruel practice that has far-reaching consequences for the victims and even for the bullies themselves. Opposition MPPs should put the needs of kids ahead of their desire to embarrass the government.”

I strongly urge everyone in this House to support the bill.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): Further comments and questions?

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: It’s a pleasure to be able to rise again to speak to this piece of legislation, which is what we are sent here to do: to debate, to talk about important issues of the day, to protect the people who have sent us here.

What has occurred today is that our member from North Bay has stood up and has spoken at length—

Mr. John O’Toole: It’s Nipissing.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Nipissing; I do apologize—has talked to this piece of legislation. We are, of course, engaged in trying to encourage this government to do what this House has called upon them to do, which is call for a select committee.

However, Madam Speaker, I will inform this House that today Bill 14 was supposed to have been discussed at social policy. Bill 14, of course, is the bill put forward by my colleague from Kitchener–Waterloo. It is a bill that passed unanimously through this House and should have started with meetings on not only clause-by-clause but on public hearings. However, given a procedural power play by this government—and they know full well that what you can do is call for this Bill 13 to be called so that Bill 14 could not be dealt with at committee—procedurally, what this government has done is tie up Bill 14 at committee, a bill that parents across Ontario agree with, that parents across this nation think is the leader in anti-bullying legislation.

If we want to call the truth here today—the member, I do apologize, is new and may not understand the rules and procedures of this House, but I will tell you, Bill 14 was passed. Bill 14 should be in committee. This government is delaying the anti-bullying legislation. They should tell the truth to the parents, they should tell the truth to the teachers and they should tell the truth—

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): Further comments?

1720

Mr. Bob Delaney: Speaker, before I pass my comments on the remarks made by the member for Nipissing, I would just like to quote to my colleague from Nepean–Carleton standing order 71(d)—she was complaining about a procedure in the Standing Committee on Social Policy. The standing order reads as follows: “No bill shall be considered in any standing or select committee while any matter, including a procedural motion, relating to the same policy field is being considered in the House.”

Speaker, the reason that the Standing Committee on Social Policy was not able to come to order, correctly called by its Chair, was because the standing order itself dictated it.

Now, Speaker, we have had seven bells, representing 12 hours and 55 minutes worth of debate—

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): I’d ask the member to restrict his comments to responses.

Mr. Bob Delaney: Let’s then go to a chronology of what has happened here. On February 23, the Minister of Education met with the member for Kitchener–Waterloo. On February 27, the minister provided the member with a list of elements of her bill which could be included in the Accepting Schools Act. The minister wrote to the member for Kitchener–Waterloo on March 28. Staff met with the member on March 20. The minister wrote to the MPP again on April 11 to inform her that the bulk of her bill could be included in the Accepting Schools Act, and on April 18, the minister gave the member for Kitchener–Waterloo proposed amendments that included more than half of her bill in legislative language. What are we doing here? Let’s get both of these into committee. Let’s get it passed, let’s get it adopted and let’s get it enacted.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): The member for Durham.

Mr. John O’Toole: Madam Speaker, I think it’s important to put on the record that the member from Nipissing is committed to fairness in everything I’ve seen him do in his time here, and I think it’s important for viewers to understand and respect the fact that he moved two procedural motions, one adjourning the debate, the other adjourning the House. The purpose of that, the motive behind that, was the lack of compliance or co-operative spirit by the McGuinty government that would normally be expected here.

Premier McGuinty—his cabinet group—refused to have a select committee on reviewing the scandalous waste at Ornge. The viewing public may not get that, but I think the member from Nipissing was fair. He really gave them due notice of the motive for his procedural wrangling. Now really, what’s important—

Interjections.

Mr. John O’Toole: Madam Speaker, it’s—

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): I’d urge the member to speak to the bill.

Mr. John O’Toole: I am speaking to the motive.

I’m quite concerned. The argument has been made by our critic Ms. MacLeod that Bill 14 is before committee. That bill has been broadly accepted across the province of Ontario—certainly in my riding of Durham—and if you’re actually listening to other members, you’ll find that there’s an ability to achieve something here.

All of us are opposed to all forms of bullying, okay? But what we find is that there’s bullying happening over there. They’re bullying us to support them. That’s the issue here. That’s why these procedural things. Our House leader, Mr. Wilson, has made it clear when working with your House leader: Set up a select committee and this will end the ineffectiveness of this chamber.

In all fairness, we believe that what you’re doing now—the public and the children here—we feel that we’re being bullied. We feel that we have to agree with you on everything. Now, we could—

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): Thank you. Further comments and questions?

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): Oh, that’s right: Response from the member for Nipissing.

Mr. Victor Fedeli: Thank you, Speaker. When I left off, I was speaking of Sylvie Vannier, the teacher at école Odyssée in North Bay and her students who are incredibly dedicated to this cause. I spoke of her website and her Twitter account. She and her students have rallied around her efforts, and to her and them I offer my congratulations on being a shining light in this fight against bullying. I urge the students to continue to make a difference. I hope other schools in my riding and across Ontario can follow their example. Indeed, it would be a tragedy and a shame if the efforts of Sylvie Vannier and the students at école Odyssée were to go for naught. If we pass legislation that is incomplete and doesn’t address the root cause of bullying, that has no way to track the problem or offer up processes or solutions to deal with it, we risk the possibility of doing just that.

So I say to our members and to our members across the floor, as the member for Nepean–Carleton has said, we ask that we stop delaying the debate on our Bill 14. Let’s do this for Sylvie, let’s do this for the students, and let’s do this for all students all across Ontario. Let’s get serious about this Bill 14 that our member has proposed.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): The member for Simcoe–Grey.

Mr. Jim Wilson: I believe we have unanimous consent to deal with the matter pertaining to tonight’s late shows. I seek consent to reschedule the late show standing in the name of Ms. MacLeod from tonight at 6 p.m. to tomorrow night.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): Is there consent? Agreed.

Further debate?

Mr. Michael Harris: I am pleased to rise today to provide a voice to the many parents and students who contacted my constituency and Queen’s Park offices, concerned about the important issue of bullying.

We all know that bullying and violence in our schools is having a devastating consequence on children across this great province. We know that when students feel safe, they achieve success. Unfortunately, this is not the case in our schools today.

Consider these sobering statistics: Bullying occurs every seven minutes on the playground and every 25 minutes in the classroom. Half of all Canadian adults were bullied as a child or teenager, according to a recent Harris/Decima survey for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada. Some 71% of students have identified bullying as an ongoing problem; 46% of grade 12 students surveyed by the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association admitted to having been either the victim or the perpetrator of bullying.

This is not acceptable, and it’s why we need to do everything in our power to make our schools a safe place for our kids. It’s also why we, as legislators, need to take our responsibility to protect children seriously.

Madam Speaker, many organizations in my riding of Kitchener–Conestoga and the region of Waterloo are taking action to stop bullying. I’d like to highlight a few examples of the good work being done in my riding.

Take the region of Waterloo’s public health department. They’re working with some 100 elementary schools to decrease bullying among children and youth. The local Big Brothers Big Sisters of Waterloo Region has also worked to raise awareness about this issue by holding fundraising bowling events called Bowl for Kids Sake. This unique fundraising campaign challenges individuals and businesses to step up and strike out bullying in Canada by supporting the work of volunteer Big Brothers and Big Sisters. The John Howard Society of Waterloo region, which has been a long, strong anti-bullying advocate, offers workshops to schools and community groups on bullying prevention and other social problems encountered by children and our youth.

Finally, February 29 was Pink Shirt Day at many of our Waterloo region schools. By wearing pink, students and adults stood together to raise awareness about bullying and the detrimental effect it can have on students. The Waterloo Region Record’s Newspapers in Education, along with the Kitchener Rangers, supported the day by selling pink T-shirts.

To augment all this good work, members here of this House and this Legislature need to develop a comprehensive approach to dealing with bullying. Our constituents expect no less. They’re eager for us to address the widespread bullying that affects nearly one third of all children in our Ontario schools today.

So, now is the time for us to work together, to protect our children and ensure their safety. Unfortunately, though, the Liberals seem content to play politics and push through their flawed bill while outright ignoring Bill 14, the Anti-Bullying Act.

Madam Speaker, Bill 14 is a comprehensive anti-bullying bill that focuses on prevention, accountability and awareness. It provides students, parents and educators with a strategy to raise awareness and prevent bullying, as well as a process to resolve it, collect data and report to the ministry.

The Liberal bill does none of these things and fails to address the root causes of bullying. We tried to sit down and work with the Liberals to negotiate a merged bill to make our schools the safest place possible for our children.

Ironically, the Liberals’ unwillingness to listen to the opposition parties’ request to appoint a select committee on Ornge is a textbook case of bullying. Because of their resistance to this very important proposal, I have no choice but to move adjournment of this debate.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): The member for Kitchener–Conestoga has moved adjournment of the debate. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say “aye.”

All those opposed, say “nay.”

In my opinion, the nays have it.

Call in the members. This will be a 30-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1731 to 1801.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): I ask all members to take their seats.

The member for Kitchener–Conestoga has moved adjournment of the debate.

All those in favour, please rise and be counted.

All members who are opposed, please rise and be counted.

The Clerk of the Assembly (Ms. Deborah Deller): The ayes are 22; the nays are 37.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): I declare the motion lost.

This House stands adjourned until 9 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Second reading debate deemed adjourned.

The House adjourned at 1803.

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