April 26, 2012

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

Resuming the debate adjourned on April 25, 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 Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Questions and comments?

Mr. John O’Toole: I’m very pleased to respond to the member from Wellington–Halton Hills, Mr. Arnott. I wasn’t here for all of his remarks, but I’m quite confident in saying that he felt that the emphasis should be placed on Bill 14. Bill 14 was the initial bill that was introduced by our member from Kitchener–Waterloo, Ms. Witmer. Ms. Witmer had worked for over two years to bring together some clear definitions. I believe that the member from Wellington–Halton Hills was, in his remarks, respecting that. We know that Bill 14 is before the committee now, and I think it’s in some kind of procedural—but what we want here is to end bullying. We don’t need to be bullying each other in this process of Bill 13 and Bill 14. What we need to do is find consensus. Initially, it was my impression that they would work together, the minister and Ms. Witmer, and try to get it right. Most of the comments I’ve heard from the public—they see it in a balanced way of not prioritizing any form of bullying, but respecting that all students need to be protected from any form of bullying.

The member from Wellington–Halton Hills, I believe, made a very good point: The ideal solution here is to put Bill 13 into committee with Bill 14. I know there will be further remarks this morning on this, because everyone in this Legislature wants to have a role in ending bullying and making our schools a safer place for all—not just these students, but for all people, whatever exposure they have. I think if you clarify it, there’s no agenda in Bill 14 at all that I’m aware of, other than protecting children from bullying and setting up a process of accountability and a reporting mechanism for the school boards to clarify that that would happen. With that respect, I look for others’ remarks on Bill 13 and ask them to look at Bill 14. Thank you.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Questions and comments?

Hon. Glen R. Murray: It is really my great desire to believe the sincerity of the party opposite, but it’s hard to, sometimes. I was very proudly standing here with all of my colleagues on this side to vote for Bill 14, their party bill—no fuss, no muss, right to committee; we said this was important. When it got to committee—I haven’t been here as long as the member for Durham, but it didn’t take me long to figure out how to read the rule book. And when you go to committee, if the same matter in substance is before the House—

Mr. Jim Wilson: You could have done it through the subcommittee.

Hon. Glen R. Murray: I didn’t interrupt you, sir, and I would like the same courtesy, especially coming from you, Jim.

They cannot have it. Rather than dealing with the substance of the matter, which is more important in getting this bill to committee—that would also be extremely helpful.

Second, Bill 14 is a very good bill. You have not heard people on this side criticize it. Bill 13 is a very good bill. As a matter of fact, they’re complementary bills. I have heard the opposition with some of the most ridiculous pieces.

The member for Durham also made the comment—which, quite frankly, I find quite disturbing. The biggest cause of bullying is the impression that kids are gay or lesbian or transgendered or in fact that they are—overwhelming statistics. The suicide rates among gay and lesbian youth are running 30% higher.

When I was in school, I played football, I was president of student council. I didn’t get bullied because I figured out that the most common thing I ever heard was, “That’s so gay.” My poor friend Geoff Creighton, who was not gay, got beaten up. He was tall, he had red hair, he was a straight young kid, grew up to have a family, but he was a little awkward-looking, a little effeminate, so he was the one who was sort of the gay kid in class.

The other thing is, we’re not prioritizing gays. There are people out there who said, “You can’t have a gay-straight alliance.” They don’t say you can’t have a straight alliance. No one’s saying you can’t have a black kids’ alliance. Not—

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Thank you. Questions and comments?

The member from Wellington–Halton Hills has two minutes for a response.

Mr. Ted Arnott: It’s an interesting process we have here, when a member speaks to an issue the day before and, if the House adjourns, we then have questions and comments the next day. I’m not sure the member for Durham had an opportunity to hear what I did say yesterday, but I appreciate his comments. I’m not sure if the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities was here for my speech yesterday, but I appreciate his comments as well. But it is always interesting to have these kinds of things. Again, I would thank the members for their responses to my comments yesterday.

The fact is that Bill 14, the bill that was brought forward by the member for Kitchener–Waterloo, was passed by this House on March 29. I spoke in favour of it. It has been languishing in the Standing Committee on Social Policy since that time. I realize there are some procedural issues but, again, I would encourage the government to get moving on Bill 14. I think there have been a number of expressions of confidence in that bill on both sides of the House, obviously, including the Premier’s public statement in the newspaper a few weeks ago.

I would commend the member for Kitchener–Waterloo, former Minister of Education, former Deputy Premier, former school board trustee, a long-serving member of this House. She studied this issue for many, many months, if not years, to bring forward a comprehensive bill that covers off the whole issue. I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that it is a superior bill and would in fact address the issues that are of concern to all of us. I would suggest that it should be the bill that is passed by this Legislature in its current form.

But at the same time, there is debate on Bill 13, and the government is continuing to call it for debate. There has been, I believe, 15 hours of debate. The government accuses us of delaying it, but the fact is, we’re doing our job in opposition and there’s a significant number of members of our caucus who wish to speak to this important issue so that we make sure we get it right.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your indulgence this morning in terms of listening to my follow-up remarks and I look forward to the continued debate on Bill 13 and Bill 14. Thank you very much.

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The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member from York–Simcoe.

Mrs. Julia Munro: It’s my pleasure to be able to join the debate this morning. I think that one of the things that has happened in the development of Bill 13 and Bill 14 is, sadly, a huge growth in awareness of the extent of the problem. We know that people have been dealing with this in isolation and on their own through a mixed bag of resources and protocols and things like that, but it’s very clear from the two bills, Bill 13 and Bill 14, that the time has come for it to be much more organized.

I want to just step back a bit and think about how did we get to this point, and when does it start? I remember asking my mother about the question of kids fighting in the schoolyard—nothing is new. I said, “But what is different? Why is it that it seems to be such a more difficult issue, and frankly more damaging?” Her answer was quite interesting. She said, “Well, there were always kids who would get into fisticuffs with each other, usually boys,” but I’m not going to go there. But she said, “What was different was that everybody would stand around and watch, and the idea that you would need someone else to come in on your behalf, so it was two against one or five against one, was absolutely wrong. It was a demonstration of your cowardliness, and you would not want anybody to think that you couldn’t stand up for yourself.” I sort of tucked that away for a while, because I started to think about it in terms of what has now become a much more serious issue of numbers, in terms of involvement.

I want to tell another little story that I think demonstrates how these things can start. A friend of my daughter’s in public school was about six feet tall. You can imagine that to be six feet in grade 7 certainly made you stand out in the group, and some of the kids started calling her Tree. She was very unhappy about this, because obviously it brought attention to something about which she already felt very self-conscious.

My daughter happened to mention one time about her friend Tree. I said, “Whose idea was it to call her Tree? Was it hers?” “Well, no.” My daughter is quite short and was very self-conscious about being short, and I said to her, “So it will be okay if Tree calls you Stump.” That put an entirely different focus on what, quite frankly, wasn’t meant in a particularly malicious way. This was her friend, and this was her nickname. But it obviously had an impact on her and was something about which she felt very self-conscious. Let me assure you that Tree and Stump are both friends now, but neither refers to the other in that pejorative way.

I think that over time what has happened is that, at the risk of opening up another can of worms, we seem to see more of a kind of group think. So if somebody comes up with a decision about someone, whether they’re too fat or too thin or they have red hair or they have a funny name or any number of things people could find that distinguish that person, then you have the escalation of group think. The other part of it is that we have the problem of this escalation, as people then become more marginalized by whatever has been the initial act.

So it’s everyone’s responsibility, I would argue, to look for opportunities. I realize, as I think back on it, that the innocence of my daughter telling me the story about Tree gave me a really good defining moment in which to throw it back on her as to her size, which she liked to be identified by. So it is everyone’s responsibility. It certainly is parents, the daycares and the schools, but it’s the schools that we’re looking at here and the importance of providing a mechanism for assisting—and I want to emphasize—both the perpetrator and the victim.

A final story on the importance of the perpetrator and the kind of need that they may have: I had a student who had the reputation, justifiably, of beating up other kids. She was warned by the school that the next time she did that she would face consequences in the legal system. You just can’t go around even threatening, and certainly not beating up, anyone.

So I had a reasonably good relationship with her and I said, “What are you doing? Come on, you’re too big. That’s something kids do maybe in kindergarten, but you’re in grade 10. What are you doing beating up?” And she turned on me and she said, “Well, what do you do when you’re mad?” And I thought, “Uh-oh, this is the problem.” Of course, in conversation with her it turned out that in her family experience everyone who was bigger than anyone else got a chance to beat up whoever was smaller. That was the way you solved problems and established your hierarchy.

When I think back on her story I think this was certainly a time when help was required. Her experiences then were something that, clearly, gave her the opportunity to express herself. She had no suite of options as to what to say when she was mad; all she knew was to beat up whoever happened to be handy.

There are a number of things, then, that I think are really important. There’s been much conversation about the merits of Bills 13 and 14, and I want to make sure that I have time to do that. But the bigger issue for us as parliamentarians is the importance of having a select committee on Ornge, and I want to move adjournment of the debate.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The member from York–Simcoe has moved adjournment of the debate. Agreed? I heard a no.

All those in favour, say “aye.”

All those against, say “nay.”

I believe the nays have it.

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

The division bells rang from 0918 to 0948.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Would all members please take their seats.

Ms. Munro has moved adjournment of the debate. All in favour, please stand and remain standing until counted by the Clerk.

Those against, please stand and remain standing.

The Clerk of the Assembly (Ms. Deborah Deller): The ayes are 20; the nays are 33.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): I declare the motion lost.

Ms. Munro.

Mrs. Julia Munro: I want to use the time remaining just to talk very briefly about the role of Karen Sebben, who is a constituent of mine in York–Simcoe and the founder of the York Region Anti-Bullying Coalition. In advocating for Bill 14, she says, “My son’s three years of bullying took the form of homophobia. But as parents, it didn’t matter to us what form the bullying took. The fact remains that aggression and assault were taking place regardless of the reason. This is the focus of any anti-bullying legislation, and the PCs’ Elizabeth Witmer got it right with Bill 14.”

I also want to, in the moment that remains, refer to a part of Bill 14 that I think is an important omission in Bill 13, and that’s the question of cyberbullying. This takes bullying to new heights. This means that it’s 24/7, that it is relentless, and it is in that spirit that we have to look at the merits of Bill 14 as well as Bill 13.

I would just conclude by saying that it’s important that we get it right, it’s important that we get the best piece of legislation, because we owe our children, at the very least, a safe environment.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Thank you. Questions and comments?

Mr. John O’Toole: I’m very pleased to stand and rise and support the member from York–Simcoe, a former teacher. I was quite impressed how she related it in a personal way to her daughter and her friend. I think they should refer to them, that story, Tree and Stump, one being tall, one being short.

It’s in that vein when we can relate this to our lives, our own personal lives. I was always called tall because I was so short. No, we won’t go into that self-deprecating mode but I think that’s what this is about: showing respect for our differences. That’s really a theme that I think we can all agree on, and that’s what I’d like to leave—I think Mrs. Munro’s remarks were in that vein. Trying to find more things that we could agree on in this House, in this Legislature, is a good signal to the pages who are here, to the youth or the educators that might be listening or watching and trying to understand.

What I do have a problem with, though, is the fact that we have been trying to establish a select committee to deal with scandalous waste. Mr. Klees, the member from Newmarket–Aurora, made a very impassioned speech yesterday. I would refer people to the Hansard of yesterday with respect to Bill 50, which is a bill from the Ministry of Health dealing with ambulances. In that, he was refuting a lot of stuff that the bill was artificially putting on the table. What we’ve been calling for, procedurally, is a select committee of this Legislature of all parties to deal with the—

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): I would ask the member to direct his comments to the previous speaker.

Mr. John O’Toole: Thank you very much. I’ll get to that as well—

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Actually, get to it right away.

Mr. John O’Toole:—get to deal with the fact that this Bill 13 is—

Interjections.

Mr. John O’Toole:—Bill 13, I’ve said it twice now—a select committee to deal with Ornge—

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Thank you. Questions and comments?

Mrs. Liz Sandals: I’m very pleased to respond to the comments by the member from York–Simcoe on Bill 13, the anti-bullying bill. I was very pleased to hear the member’s comments because I think she recognized that what we need to do is take the bill, Bill 14, from the member from Kitchener–Waterloo, who the members on this side of the House supported. I know that the Minister of Education and the member from Kitchener–Waterloo have been working very closely on how to merge Bill 13 and Bill 14, and I thank the member for York–Simcoe for recognizing that the two bills really need to be merged.

But the problem is, we can’t merge these two bills at committee if every time we try to have a debate and actually get Bill 13 passed, what we have is bells ringing, because time after time after time, when Bill 13 has been called for debate, what we’ve ended up with is 30 minutes of bells ringing about something that has absolutely nothing to do with Bill 13. Although I must say, what I’m really beginning to understand is that the members opposite in the official opposition actually can’t agree that we need to compromise, so as a front they’re ringing bells. We want to compromise on this. Please pass Bill 13 and get both bills into committee so we can actually compromise. We can’t compromise if you keep ringing bells.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Questions and comments?

Mr. Rob Leone: I would like to congratulate the member for York–Simcoe on her remarks on Bill 13. I think that she made some passionate points that reflect some of her background on the issue, and experience and discussions with actual students who have been bullied. Those are important stories that I think all members have, at some point, experienced or seen, and I think it’s important that we acknowledge those ideas.

I also want to reference, since the member for Guelph referenced proceeding and moving forward—you know, I think it’s just a simple request. The reason why these bells have been ringing has absolutely nothing to do with Bill 13. What it has to do with is that we have to seek some co-operation on seeing through what the will of the House actually has been, which is that we had a motion on this floor that wants to see a select committee on Ornge, which we simply haven’t seen to date—

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): I would ask the member to restrict his comments to the previous speaker.

Mr. Rob Leone: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I was just referring to, in reference to the comments from the member for Guelph—I think we need to, to the greatest extent possible, set politics aside. Bullying is about the kids, it’s about the children, and certainly in my comments on this bill that we’ve talked about—

Hon. Ted McMeekin: So they’re just collateral damage, right? You ring the bells and they’re collateral damage.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Minister of Agriculture, would you come to order, please.

Mr. Rob Leone: The heckling that we’re seeing from that side of the House, Mr. Speaker, is exemplary of the kind of bullying that we’ve seen from that side. All I would ask is that we seek a little bit of co-operation in terms of trying to get these things moved forward. Certainly they have no interest in that co-operation, Mr. Speaker. I think that exemplifies the kind of bullying that we’ve been seeing since last October.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Thank you. Questions and comments?

Mr. Lorenzo Berardinetti: I only have two minutes to make comments. I think the opposition, by ringing the bells—it is a form of bullying. A bully wants to get their way. I remember that in school. We had bullies like everyone else would have, and the bullies wanted their way. I have nephews and nieces, and they tell me about the environment now in schools. Someone will steal someone’s iPod or iPhone because they want it themselves. They want to have it for themselves. Or they’ll steal someone’s lunch because they don’t have a lunch or they know that the lunch of the person being bullied is better than their lunch.

I remember in school so many incidents. I remember someone who came into the same classroom that I was in. People knew that he was gay. The teacher stepped out for a bit, and what happened was that a textbook was thrown from the back of the room and hit this person who was gay right in the back of the head. He got up, picked up his binders, left the room and never came back again. We were studying King Lear at that time; I remember it very well. It was a King Lear textbook, hardcover, and it was just thrown right into the back of the head. The person, unfortunately, had to leave. So what we’re trying to do is eliminate that in this bill, so that people can live in a free and just society, without having people attack—verbally, physically or by any other means—someone that may be vulnerable.

The world has changed a lot. The United States is discussing the same issue, the very same issue. Society is advancing, becoming more aware of these issues. That’s why this bill’s important. We all have the right to an education, we all have the right to move freely, and we’re addressing that in this bill.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Thank you. The member for York–Simcoe, you have two minutes for a response.

Mrs. Julia Munro: I wish to thank the members for Durham, Guelph, Cambridge and Scarborough Southwest.

Mr. Speaker, I’m going to ask for your indulgence. In fact, in the comments and questions, there seem to be mixed messages here between the use of bells and the actual piece of legislation, so I’m going to respond to those as well. I think, perhaps, that it is what I said: a mixed message.

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We have a very serious issue on the floor of this chamber: the question of Bill 13 and the question of Bill 14. No one, I think, misunderstands that we also have a very serious issue in the need for a select committee. The bells are simply an opportunity to demonstrate the dissatisfaction of the opposition, and serve as a reminder of the need to look at the issue of Ornge. I certainly don’t think that I mixed those messages in my remarks.

The important thing, I think, is how I left my comments, which were on the value of a safe environment. We spend a great deal of money and time on various other methods of making sure our children have a safe environment. We have what are notionally referred to as “the helicopter parents.” Well, I think that it’s time to look at the issue of those children who are identified, for whatever reason, as outsiders, as being different. That’s what this bill is all about—both of them—and it is an opportunity for us to move forward on something that is so important.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Jerry J. Ouellette: I appreciate the opportunity to speak on Bill 13 in the time that I have. There are a number of issues that I wish to bring forward that I hope the government will be able to pay attention to. There are some issues I want to bring to their attention, as there are a number of questions that haven’t been answered as of yet.

I can recall, and each of us has mentioned, many aspects of our lives that have come forward that have actually been part of our building blocks in order to make us individuals and stronger. I can recall being in grade 9, walking home, and I happened to see an individual I knew who was in grade 9 being picked on by two older kids in grade 12. He was walking away as best he could, and these kids picked on him and just punched him. I didn’t know what to do. I have to tell you, he just continued to walk, and he was almost in tears doing the very best he could. I never, ever forgot that moment. As a matter of fact, it was about a year and a half ago when I met the individual again, and I apologized to him for not standing up for him at that time.

Although I was intimidated by the bullies that were picking on the individual, I didn’t have the courage or the understanding of what process to go by which to assist in the situation. But what took place, though, Mr. Speaker, was that I brought it upon myself that I wouldn’t allow it to happen to other children or other kids if it was ever in my presence again.

As a result of that, later on while in high school, I was working, believe it or not, as a chicken picker on a chicken farm. There was one tough guy that was picking on all the little kids in there, because they brought everybody in of any age. What we’d do is load chickens in the bins to be carried off to—this particular place was Colonel Sanders. Anyway, one kid was picking on one of the young guys there, and he thought it was great fun and all the other kids were laughing at him. I told myself, as I did when I saw the individual in grade 9 being picked on, that I wouldn’t let it happen. I went over, I picked him up and I held him up against the ceiling of the top floor of that chicken barn and I said, “You ever pick on that kid again and you’re going to deal with me.” He stopped. Nobody ever did, and nobody ever picked on anybody while I was in there ever again.

Not only that, but later on while I was playing hockey, I can recall we were playing some pick-up shinny hockey and there was one guy that was a pretty good skater. He felt great pride in checking and flattening every single kid that he could there, because he was a big, tough guy. The next shift, I went out and I warned him. I said, “Don’t ever do it again.” He went out and continued on, he thought, in defiance. Well, the next time I had a chance, I completely levelled him, and he said, “What did you do that for?” I said, “How do you think he likes it and he likes it? Don’t ever do it again.” He was doing it to intimidate the other kids.

What happened, though, Mr. Speaker, is what I’m trying to express here: that as a result of the bullying actions, it builds stronger characters in those individuals who are willing to stand up for those individuals being bullied. Quite frankly, probably every one of us in here is standing up for beliefs that we have, and that’s one of the reasons we came to Queen’s Park.

Now, I want to go into some of the aspects in regard to the specifics of the bill. I’m going to read a couple things that I’ll specifically reference: “All Canadians are … on an equal footing; whether they are Quebeckers, Albertans, French, English, Jewish, Hindu, they all have the same rights. No one is special. All Canadians are equal, and that equality flows from the charter.”

It goes on to mention a number of other aspects where it specifically says, “In my philosophy the community, an institution itself, has no rights. It has rights by delegation from the individuals. You give equality to the individuals and you give rights to the individuals. Then they will organize in societies to make sure that these rights are respected.”

The individual goes on to talk about a hierarchy of rights, whereby the recognition of single entities or aspects that are mentioned in legislation are given a perceived hierarchy of rights, and that’s one of the concerns here in Bill 13, that a hierarchy of rights is being established because one single aspect is mentioned where there are other aspects that are not mentioned.

Quite frankly, it’s important for the individuals to know who it was who spoke that, because that was Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada at that time, who went into great depth and spoke about ensuring that all rights are equal.

Now, in this Bill 13, one of the aspects was—in my own riding, my old alma mater, R.S. McLaughlin Collegiate and Vocational Institute, in which I have great pride and which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, denied allowing to have a faith organization in the school because, according to the principal at that time, religion was the basis of all wars in the world. That principal would not allow anything that promoted war in her school, and that organization was denied. So by mentioning certain organizations and others, there’s a perceived hierarchy of rights that is being established within the legislation, and that’s where a lot of individuals or groups have concerns about that.

Not only that. I met with senior officials from one of the largest, if not—well, quite frankly, it will be the largest implementer of the legislation in Bill 13, because there are certain aspects that already have it in place. The statement that was quite shocking was that, for the first time ever, they had never been consulted prior to the actual introduction of the legislation. The first time they ever heard anything about it was after it was introduced in the Legislature, and they had no ability to have comment or input on a consultation basis, which is the normal practice within this Legislature.

Quite frankly, they were very concerned and didn’t know how to handle it, so they contacted me and asked, “What do we do and how do we go about this?” As a result of that action, a document was brought forward by the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association called Respecting Difference. When you’re respecting difference, it’s the ability to come forward and ensure that the contents of it are reflective of all aspects being brought forward. It’s an attempt to reach out, to say, “Look, we’ll find an understanding on how we can work together and move forward.” Quite frankly, they were very concerned about the whole thing in that they’d never had any ability to influence or been given an opportunity to have input on that.

Also, I should say that I, as many members do here, have met with principals in my riding. Quite frankly, I asked them when they came forward in regard to Bill 13 about the aspects of implementing it. Their comments were quite surprising to me. I found it rather interesting that they stated to me that they already had the authority to do what was taking place and being implemented in Bill 13. So I asked, then, why they would be bringing Bill 13 forward? They didn’t have an answer. Quite possibly, the lack of consultation with the implementation organizations may be part of the reason. However, that’s not for me to decide. It’s for the implementers or the government who have moved the aspects forward.

I looked up under the Education Act and, according to section 306(1), it specifically states, “A principal shall consider whether to suspend a pupil if he or she believes that the pupil has engaged in any of the following activities while at school, at a school-related activity or in other circumstances where engaging in the activity will have an impact on the school climate....” What they stated to me was that that section allowed them to make sure that anything that took place regarding bullying could be dealt with at the school level.

Some of the aspects mentioned were:

“1. Uttering a threat to inflict serious bodily harm on another person.

“2. Possessing alcohol or illegal drugs.

“3. Being under the influence of alcohol.

“4. Swearing at a teacher or at another person in a position of authority.

“5. Committing an act of vandalism that causes extensive damage to school property at the pupil’s school or to property located on the premises of the pupil’s school.

“6. Bullying.”

So, under section 306 of the legislation, it already states that bullying is already enacted and that the principals of the schools have the authority, whether it’s on or off school property, to enact the legislation.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I realize there’s a very limited amount of time here. There’s another couple of things I wanted to mention. I was invited to a constitutional briefing at U of T on the legislation, and there was a significant number of concerns that were brought forward in regard to this. One of them, very specifically, was that, should Bill 13 be enacted in the way it is, it will effectively stop what’s taking place in the riding of Oshawa, as in other locations. Pastor Jarret of the Affinity Church preaches at Norman G. Powers School—and this is one of the questions I am hoping the government will be able to answer and answer to these individuals. Bill 13, the way it has come out now, will disallow that church from practising in that school, at Norman G. Powers, as is the practice in many churches. They need to hear these answers to give them some security that they know they can continue on with this aspect, because they are very concerned about that.

Another aspect that was brought forward in that constitutional briefing at U of T was very specifically that under subsection 2(1), paragraph 29.1 of subsection 8(1) of the act is repealed. They give the example that the Toronto District School Board’s EIE policy explicitly states that parents shall not be provided with advance notification of what material is being taught to their children, and that the parents shall not be permitted to withdraw their children from classes covering material which conflicts with their religious or moral beliefs.

Now, I understand that there is a potential court case in Hamilton—if it has not been brought forward—about to take place dealing with this because a parent tried to remove their child from the classes that they didn’t believe were appropriate in accordance with their beliefs. I also understand that there is a Quebec precedent that was set in regard to this that had taken place. However, according to the constitutional lawyers who potentially will be dealing with this or are dealing with it now, they are substantially different in that the parent was completely denied and disallowed from removing their child from there.

There is a significant number of questions that need to be answered. Unfortunately, I only have a few seconds left. I appreciate the opportunity. I look forward to the bill moving forward to committee so that these issues can be brought forward and these people have the ability to come forward and get their questions answered about a serious aspect of our society.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Second reading debate deemed adjourned.

Oral Questions:

ANTI-BULLYING INITIATIVES

Mr. David Orazietti: My question is for the Minister of Education. Minister, this past November you introduced the Accepting Schools Act, legislation that would help make our schools safer and create a more welcoming environment for all students.

As a former educator and a parent, I’m disappointed that five months later, the bill is still stuck in second reading. When it comes to the welfare of our kids in the province, we need to put politics aside and do what’s right.

Now, the MPP for Kitchener–Waterloo introduced a similar bill on anti-bullying, which government members supported because we believe in doing everything we can to help protect students. Unfortunately, Conservative members are continuing to obstruct what is good public policy.

Minister, what are you doing to make sure this important legislation is passed?

Hon. Laurel C. Broten: The member from Sault Ste. Marie is right: Taking steps in our schools to eradicate bullying is critically important to families and children in this province. There have been many times where this Legislature has come together to help kids. Unfortunately, this is not one of those times.

Liberal members, as the member from Sault Ste. Marie has said, did not play games with the member for Kitchener–Waterloo’s bill. I have publicly and repeatedly said I want to incorporate over half of that bill. The goal is to make Bill 13 the strongest possible bill that we can have. Let’s take good ideas from all sides of the House. Let’s get this bill to committee. I call on the opposition: Stop delaying. Stop playing politics. Put kids first.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I am going to comment on my concern that we stick with government policy in the questioning. I would ask the member to make sure that you don’t try to slip a sentence in there that doesn’t.

Supplementary.

Mr. David Orazietti: Thank you, Speaker. Minister, I appreciate your commitment to moving this legislation forward. I think it’s important that we focus on good education policy and what Bill 13 does to protect students across the province. Members of the Legislature all agree that bullying in our schools is wrong and we need to do more to prevent it, yet the opposition have chosen to disrupt debate on this issue 10 times. They’ve decided to put procedural games ahead of good public policy.

Bill 13 needs to move forward. Minister, can you tell us how we’re going to continue to move this legislation forward?

Hon. Laurel C. Broten: Let me be very clear: We want to make Bill 13, our government bill, the best possible bill to protect students. That’s why I’ve provided the member for Kitchener–Waterloo with amendments to our Accepting Schools Act, Bill 13, drafted in legislative language, which include more than one half of the provisions in Bill 14. We did this because we can only fight bullying in Ontario schools if this House stands together.

But the opposition stands in the way. Tim Hudak, the leader of the PC Party, hasn’t shown leadership. He needs to put aside partisan politics. He needs to put aside—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I remind the member to refer to people in this place either by their riding or their ministry.

Hon. Laurel C. Broten: Thank you, Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition needs to support the movement of Bill 13 to committee. We need to put aside partisan politics and ideology. We need to work across party lines for our kids—

Members Statements: 


ANTI-BULLYING INITIATIVES

Mr. Jeff Leal: Like parents across Ontario, our government understands that creating a safe and positive learning environment is essential to helping students succeed. That’s why we introduced legislation that, if passed, would help end bullying in our schools for all children.

I’m proud to support Bill 13 and, like my colleagues on this side of the House, I want to see it pass quickly so that due protections can get into schools in time for September 2012. That’s why I’m dismayed that, despite every effort to work with the official opposition, the PCs are engaging in shameful delaying tactics and refusing to debate. It’s clear the Conservatives were absent without leadership during the budget. Now they’re absent without leadership in the Legislature and they’re playing games with important issues to protect all vulnerable children. On this bill alone they’ve delayed 15 hours and 37 minutes with nine bells. That could mean that kids getting bullied might not get the help they need come this September.

I was elected by the families in my riding to work hard and tackle very important issues; so is every other member in this House. With many challenges facing our province today, it’s time for the members of the opposition to stop playing games and do the right thing for the families and kids they were elected to serve.

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