April 3

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

Resuming the debate adjourned on March 29, 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): Further debate?

Mr. Rob Leone: I’m pleased to resume the debate, the discussions that we started last week on Thursday. Time ran out before question period.

I do want to inform, or re-inform, the House and give a synopsis of what I had talked about during that debate. Certainly, I was looking at the case of bullying, trying to talk about it from a perspective of an academic debate—what is violence? What is bullying?—and going over some of the past legislation that even our party enacted on this cause, because I think that we are here to talk about protecting our kids. I think if we keep our kids as the focal point in this, we are in essence doing our jobs: That’s protecting kids from harm.

I have about nine minutes left in this debate, and I do want to reiterate the fact that, as much as possible, I’m trying to rise above some of the politics that I think we’re expecting to hear in this debate, and I think that that’s an important thing to do. I think we can talk about bullying without talking about some of the heated issues that surround this particular bill. I’m hopeful that debate on both sides of the House can respect that.

I do want to talk a little bit about some of the meetings that I’ve had over the last little while that frankly have been humbling. I met with Roger Lawler, who is the chair of the Waterloo Catholic District School Board. When I met him I asked him about his views on Bill 13, as I would in any circumstance where we’re meeting a key stakeholder in our community, to get some feedback on the kinds of bills that we are talking about. Madam Speaker, like I said, his response was pretty humbling. When talking about bullying in their schools in that school board, the chair, Roger Lawler, suggested that they’re not focused on the politics of this issue; they’re focused on the act. They’re focused on the deed. They’re focused on the fact that there is a bully and a person who is bullied.

So the school board actively seeks to address some of those concerns that they see therein, specifically, talking about the policies. Whether that person has been bullied because of race or religiosity or sexual orientation or whatever the case, that student is being treated and counselled accordingly. I found it very humbling that he did not seek an opportunity to engage in a highly political and sometimes even partisan answer in response to that.

I also met with another principal in the Waterloo Region District School Board who talked about what was already happening in his school. This is from Helmut Tinnes, who is the principal of Mary Johnstson Public School, again in Waterloo region. He talked about two programs that they offered for bullies in their schools and in that school in particular. The first was called the Roots of Empathy program. The Roots of Empathy program is a unique Canadian program started in 1996. This program has shown significant progress, according to Mr. Tinnes, in reducing aggression among children while raising social emotional competence and increasing empathy. So we have a program, like the Roots Of Empathy, that essentially addresses the key concern that we see with respect to bullying.

Mr. Tinnes also talked about a second program, which is called the social skills development and bullying awareness workshops, which are hosted in our region by the John Howard Society. In this program a representative from the John Howard Society comes to talk to children about the issue of bullying, so we’re raising awareness of what’s happening. This is another workshop for parents, and how children and parents can recognize bullying and work with schools to combat bullying.

These are the things that are already happening in our schools. I suggest that we need an opportunity to have a bill before us that essentially amplifies what’s already going on in our schools, so we need a bill that complements their efforts.

I want to talk a little bit about what happened at my son’s school last week and during the course of the year—at Ayr Public School, where my son is in JK. They have monthly assemblies that actually address the concerns of bullying. What they’re doing each month in these assemblies is they’re talking about some of the characteristics that we’d hope we could see and teach our kids to talk about. Really, we need one person in a group to stand up for the person being bullied. If we can find that one person to stand up to that bully, then a lot of the issues surrounding it can be mitigated. We won’t see some of the negative effects, emotional and physical, that we would typically see.

So it was the JK room last week that actually had to do the assembly and did a skit. They were doing a skit on building character, building confidence in themselves. At the end of that assembly they sang a very important song. That song was The More We Get Together, the Happier We’ll Be. I think a lot of us who have children or can remember back to when we were children and actually remember it—

Mrs. Liz Sandals: Can we sing it?

Mr. Rob Leone: The member for Guelph actually wants me to sing, I think. I’m not sure you really want me to sing.

I’m encouraged by the fact, though, that they’d like to sing The More We Get Together, The Happier We’ll Be. I’m certainly hopeful that that synopsis is something that we see more and more in this House, in this place.

Madam Speaker, my wife is a psychologist in Waterloo region. She is a child psychologist. She talks and deals with issues of anxiety and depression. She often engages in therapy sessions with clients who have been bullied. It’s certainly a very prevalent thing in our schools. The emotional effects that it has on people, I think, are incomprehensible if we have not ourselves been the bullied child. I think this is an issue that seriously deserves our attention and due consideration.

One of the things that are becoming more prevalent with respect to bullying in our schools is this issue of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is certainly something that I think we read about. It’s in the public discourse. I don’t think we know a lot about it, particularly about the effects that it has on kids, because cyberbullying effectively is the extent to which we use the Internet and social media to engage in some of the types of bullying that I expressed last week, including, for example, the direct verbal attack—which we could talk about—writing a letter, an email, sending a text message, posting something on a blog. We can also talk about how the Internet’s being used to spread false rumours about kids.

Cyberbullying has a very important effect, I think, in our school system. It’s one of the reasons why I have been a very strong defender of Bill 14, the member for Kitchener–Waterloo’s bill, because it actually addresses cyberbullying in very great detail. It’s a very important aspect of it, it’s a newer aspect of it, and it certainly affects students throughout all the categories of being bullied.

Madam Speaker, I think cyberbullying is something that we need to address more concretely. Cyberbullying is one of those things that we read about a lot. As politicians, we might have been negatively affected by some cyberbullying ourselves, when things are sent by email or by text or are posted on a website that may or may not be true about some person, with the explicit perspective of trying to embarrass, humiliate and otherwise demean political figures.

Interjections.

Mr. Rob Leone: I think it’s important that we address that in a very specific way. I know the member for Peterborough doesn’t want me to talk about cyberbullying, but that’s okay. I think it’s something that deserves a lot of merit.

I also know that we are looking here to come up with reasonable compromises when it comes to legislation. We’re looking for reasonable compromises when it comes to some of the debates that we’re seeing in this House, particularly with respect to Ornge and the effect that Ornge is having on our political process. We want answers to Ornge. We’re not getting those answers to Ornge, and for that reason, Madam Speaker, I move adjournment of this debate.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): Mr. Leone 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. It will be a 30-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 0914 to 0944.

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

Mr. Leone has moved adjournment of the debate.

All in favour, please rise until counted.

All those opposed, please rise and be counted.

The Clerk of the Assembly (Ms. Deborah Deller): The ayes are 19; the nays are 42.

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

We will revert back to questions and comments.

Ms. Cindy Forster: I just wanted to share with you an article, actually, that was in a local paper from a young man who lives in my riding. His name is Jordan Setacci. He started to experience bullying when he moved from contact sports, like hockey, to dancing. He went on in his life—he’s 25 years old—to pursue a career in dancing. He has danced with stars such as Lady Gaga. He has been in a number of movies, dancing, and he has recently, in the last couple of years, actually opened his own dance studio in St. Catharines.

He was out at a school in Port Colborne, which is in my riding, spreading the anti-bullying message. His remarks were, “Spread the message. Tell somebody about it if you’re bullied. If you’re observing bullying, tell somebody about it. Perhaps approach the bully and ask them not to do that, but don’t just ignore it, because when you ignore it, it doesn’t go away.”

He knew that when he actually moved from hockey to dancing that he was perhaps going to be bullied, but he kind of took the plunge and he has made a very successful career for himself. He said when he was younger there was nobody around to talk to about bullying, so he encourages students to go to their teacher, go to their guidance counsellor, go to their parent, go to somebody they trust. Until people actually start to talk about this issue and share the concerns that they have in their school or in the playground, nothing is going to happen to stop this from continuing. I thought that you’d be interested in the article, and I’m happy to speak on this.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): The member for Scarborough–Agincourt.

Ms. Soo Wong: I’m pleased to rise to speak in support of Bill 13. I was very disappointed my colleague opposite tried to stop this discussion when it’s so important to debate, because this is what this Legislature is about: to give every one of us an opportunity to speak in support of or against a proposed legislation, Madam Speaker.

He made references to Roots of Empathy. Let me tell you what Roots of Empathy is. It started in the city of Toronto when I was a former school board trustee, Madam Speaker. If Mary Gordon found out the opposition member used her program, which is recognized internationally, she would be disappointed; I can tell you first-hand.

I know first-hand why we need Bill 13, Madam Speaker, when I hear the pain and the suffering of our young students, okay? In the Toronto Star today, it talks about the higher suicide rate amongst young people, and that’s what this bill is all about. This bill will bring tougher consequences for bullying and hate-related activities, and also require all the school boards to support students who want to lead activities to promote understanding and respect. Sometimes we need to provide opportunity and space to allow young people to talk, to share and learn and support each other.

So why wouldn’t this bill be supported by our colleague? I just don’t understand, Madam Speaker. But given the challenge, I guess they need to hear from all of us.

But the other thing about this particular bill is the fact that it will raise awareness through the Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week in legislation, to encourage discussion, encourage activities. But most importantly, it tells the community that it is okay to be different, it is okay to be unique. Most importantly, it’s about protecting and supporting our students in all our schools, making our schools safe, Madam Speaker.

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

Mr. John O’Toole: I appreciate the remarks made earlier this morning by the member from Cambridge, who spent some time dealing specifically with the bill.

Now, he did adjourn the debate, and I think it’s important to put on the record why he adjourned the debate—but he did use all of his time with the exception of about one minute. He was trying to make the point that the Minister of Health has failed to deal with—I’d say the Premier has failed to deal with the Ornge helicopter issue adequately. We’ve been calling with our leader, Tim Hudak, for a select committee or for the minister to resign or some action to at least be apologetic.

This is another case where the government is simply bullying the opposition in terms of not showing any remorse or regrets in the wasteful spending and lack of governance in Ornge. So that’s one example. That’s why we’re still, at this point in time—

Interjections.

Mr. John O’Toole: I could use this opportunity to adjourn the debate as well, but I won’t.

What I will say is this: Last week, last Thursday, our member Elizabeth Witmer introduced Bill 14, and we debated it. It was debated on, and I think it’s a very civil response, putting Bills 13 and 14 together. Bill 14, even the media has suggested, is a much more mature and well-developed bill. I’m going to outline, for those members here—when this Bill 13 goes to committee, we should be responding to some of the discussions we heard during that debate. There’s a much clearer definition of bullying itself, which is fundamental to a bill, all of us agree.

Any form of bullying is reprehensible, unacceptable in society. All forms of bullying should be expunged from our system. There’s early intervention and incorporation in curriculum; there’s a provincial-wide ministry model of prevention; the development of a detailed school—

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

Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: First, I want to congratulate the member from Cambridge on his thoughts on bullying today. One thing he made a comment on was about how this is a heated issue, and the more I’m in the House listening to the debates on Bill 13, the more it comes to light that this is a heated issue. That’s the very reason why we have to stay respectful and calm and deal with this: so that in the end, it will come out the best possible way to help our children be in a safe school and not experience any bullying in any form.

He also talked about the song The More We Get Together, The Happier We’ll Be. When he said that, everybody had kind of a smile on their face, and the mood was a little easier—

Mr. Paul Miller: It won’t last.

Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: Yeah, it won’t last.

That song—obviously, those words mean something, and that’s part of what Bill 13 is about: the power of words. If we can try to remember that the more we get along, the better things will be, the better this bill will be, and the more we’re going to accomplish in this House for the betterment of our children, I think we’re going to be in a far better place.

I also listened to a comment today after bells were called. Someone said, “Why can’t we get along?” It was a member who said that on the other side of me, and then they got up and left. I thought about that. I thought, “Just because we don’t agree doesn’t mean we can’t get along.” Let’s debate this bill and hear everybody’s side. We don’t have to agree on everything, but we certainly have to do the right thing and listen to each other and come up with the best bill for our children.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): The member for Cambridge has two minutes to respond.

Mr. Rob Leone: I’d like to thank the member for Welland, the member for Scarborough–Agincourt, the member for Durham and the member for London–Fanshawe for their thoughtful comments and contributions to this debate.

I want to say very, very specifically that I hope the other side was actually listening to the comments that I made in this debate. Before I moved adjournment, I talked about how my son, who’s in JK, had an assembly last week. It was an anti-bullying assembly, and it was an anti-bullying assembly to engender a sense of good character in our kids. The theme was co-operation, and they would have co-operation thoughts. The member from London–Fanshawe did remark on how friendly this place got when I mentioned the song The More We Get Together.

I’m talking about co-operation. We’re talking about co-operation in trying to merge Bill 13 with Bill 14. But we’re also talking about co-operation with respect to getting these select committees on Ornge up and running, which is something the opposition has requested for weeks, and we’re not getting the co-operation from across the aisle, co-operation that they’ve actually said—on record, in Hansard, they actually said, “We will agree with the will of the House, and if it’s the will of the House to set up those select committees, we’re going to set up those select committees.” We still, here on April 3, do not have select committees in this Legislature. It’s the reason why we moved adjournment of this House, and we’re going to continue moving adjournment of the debate. We’re going to continue moving it so long as we don’t get the co-operation that we deserve on this side of the House.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): Pursuant to standing order 47(c), I am now required to interrupt the proceedings to announce that there have been six and a half hours of debate on the motion for second reading of this bill. This debate will therefore be deemed adjourned unless the government House leader indicates otherwise.

Hon. Brad Duguid: Thank you, Madam Chair. We’d like the debate to continue.

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

Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: I’m happy to stand here today on Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act. We know that bullying in our schools is causing too many of our children to take drastic actions, with the worst kinds of consequences. I am grateful that there is a true recognition and concern on this issue from all parties in this House.

On this issue, we must stand together to keep our children safe, to prevent teen suicide and to ensure that our schools have the tools and resources necessary to combat bullying of our youth. I’m happy to see that we have not one bill but two bills to debate on this issue, and I’m very keen to see these bills debated in detail in committee.

They say that life is in the details. That could not be truer than it is here today, especially when it comes to how we support our children. We know that our children deserve the very best from our education system. From all of us here, we have the opportunity to show them that through our work on this bill, it can be done. We need to ensure that the children of our province know we understand and support their right to a system of education that is free from bullying and harassment. Every student has a right to a learning environment that is safe, secure and free from intimidation, and we fully support effective action to ensure the safety of every student in the province of Ontario.

I also want to thank everyone involved with the creating of these bills, those who crafted them and those who have worked so hard to ensure this issue has been brought to the forefront, to the attention of those of us who need to take the action our students can’t take themselves, by shaping this legislation.

These bills aim to create safer and more accepting schools by designing bullying awareness and prevention weeks; requiring school boards to support student activities that promote equality; requiring groups using school property to abide by a code of conduct; and also requiring action for hate-motivated actions.

Effective bullying prevention requires a comprehensive approach that includes a clear and consistent language, consequences and raising awareness in class and within the community. We also need adequately resourced student supports along with meaningful student, parent and community engagement. There are many groups doing amazing work for our children, and we need to coordinate with those groups and listen to what they are telling us. Groups like Egale, Ontario GSAs, Canadian Auto Workers, CUPE Ontario, Canadian AIDS Society, PFLAG, Metropolitan Community Church of Ontario, and Catholics for Choice have all come together to address and support our children, and now it is our time.

Egale Canada has done amazing work for our teens, and we need to pay attention to their calls for real changes to our school systems and how we can improve the outcomes of those who are being bullied.

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According to Every Class in Every School, Egale’s final report on homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in Canadian schools, 68% of transgender students, 55% of female sexual minority students and 42% of male sexual minority students reported being verbally harassed about their perceived gender or sexual orientation. Twenty percent of LGBTQ students and almost 10% of non-LGBTQ students reported being physically harassed or assaulted about their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Almost two thirds—64%—of LGBTQ students and 61% of students with LGBTQ parents reported that they feel unsafe at school.

These numbers are very shocking, or at least they are to me. I hope everyone pays very close attention to these numbers. These numbers represent real pain and fear our children experience when they go to school every day.

The worst part of it all is that these statistics are not the worst part of it. According to Teen Health, suicide rates differ between boys and girls. Girls think of and attempt suicide about twice as often as boys and tend to attempt suicide by overdosing on drugs or cutting themselves. Yet boys die by suicide about four times as often as girls, perhaps because they tend to use more lethal methods such as firearms, hanging or jumping from heights.

There are some people who believe that bullying is only prevalent among our children struggling with sexuality or gender, but we know that is not the case. Racialized and special-needs children in this province are also suffering through real issues of bullying and harassment. These statistics are staggering and I am overwhelmed by the level of violence that our children are faced with every day. That is why I ask each of us here today to forgo our partisan ways and find a way to work together on this important bill. I urge everyone here to consider the consequences of finishing this legislative session without having real supports for students in place. The risk is too great and the price is too high to pay. We can’t afford to lose one more child to this behaviour while we stand idly by and engage in a status quo governance. I understand that we are faced with different approaches. I understand that these bills may not be ideal. I also know that without prompt action of everyone here in this Legislature, we are risking another child. In light of that, I want to move this conversation towards how we can best support this bill and the goals it is trying to achieve.

Bill 13 ramps up the consequences for bullying but falls short in its support of student-led equality and awareness activities, including gay-straight alliances. I also know that this bill could do more to address the other factors at play when we consider school safety. There is little mention of access to professional supports, treatments and alternative programming for at-risk or special-needs students. We need to include and consider inadequate staffing and funding for anti-bullying programs, the growing inequities between schools, and the lack of social-skill-building opportunities in a curriculum that has become increasingly focused on narrow EQAO results.

My concerns for this bill are based upon the lack of resources and supports while calling for more punitive measures. Many experts caution that we must go beyond discipline; we need to restore hope through programs and initiatives that create prospects for success. This bill also does not attempt to address the inadequate staffing and supports for students who are the victims of bullying.

People for Education have sent along data that outlines several important ideas for us to include in our deliberations. One of the key factors they note is the roles of principals and how they have changed and have been expanded by numerous government directives, yet fewer and fewer schools in this province have a principal. Special-needs children, one out of three in the GTA alone in our elementary schools, are not getting recommended levels of support they require. More and more schools rely on fundraising for adequate playgrounds and school supports, which we know are critical to keeping children healthy and active by teaching them important life lessons.

So, Speaker, there are many things that we can certainly discuss and improve upon in this bill. Bill 14 has some valid points as well. Ultimately, I’d like to see all of us work together and take the best of both bills to come out with something that’s going to work for the children of our schools and the children in our lives.

I want to wrap up by telling a little story that I experienced when we were in public school. I had a friend of mine, and she was a lovely girl. I pretty much got along with everybody. I got along with the so-called bullies and I got along with the kids who were unfortunately being bullied. I befriended both parties, both people—and I hope to befriend both parties on this side of the House. But all kidding aside, my girlfriend—this girl was a lovely person, and for some reason, they’d zero in on her. To this day, I still communicate with her, and she holds on to those memories of the verbal torment and self-esteem issues. But there’s a success story with her. She went on and is very successful in her own business, and she’s very proud of her three children.

But I think what we have to look at, too, is that when children are bullied, a lot of people carry on that baggage, and it’s not something that they get over easily. Some people rise above it, become tougher and don’t let it affect them, but there are those where it does continue on into adulthood. So I do want to just mention her—her fight and her plight that she made—and just tell her that my thoughts are with her.

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

Mr. Kevin Daniel Flynn: It’s a pleasure to follow up on the remarks from the member for London–Fanshawe. I think, in the short time that she’s been here, she brings the right attitude to the job. I think, seriously, that the remarks she just made really, really mirror that attitude, and I thank her for it.

Often, you take a bill that comes before the House, and it’s very abstract. But often in our daily life, things happen that make it real. Our constituency office, about two years ago, received a phone call from a parent who was at the emergency room of Oakville-Trafalgar hospital, who said, “I’m sitting here with my son. He tried to kill himself last night because he just couldn’t put up with the teasing any more,” because he had come out and declared to the world that he was a gay person. When you get that phone call and you’re talking to the parent, all of a sudden all the bills and the initiatives and everything else don’t really become that important. What you want to do is something for that individual at that time.

We have a group in Oakville called the Oakville Provincial Youth Advisory Committee. What it is is two students from each high school. I’ve always said, if you want to know what’s happening in the schools, don’t talk to the teachers, don’t talk to the parents, go and talk to the kids. That’s what we’re able to do on a monthly basis in Oakville, to actually hear from the students themselves.

They decided as a group that they were going to produce a video. We were fortunate enough to have in the group that year two young men who were just terrific filmmakers. In fact, since that time, they’ve been accepted at the Ryerson school of film. They came up with the video themselves—and this was before any initiatives came out of Queen’s Park—and that video now is being used, I understand, by the Red Cross.

It gives us hope that the students are really leading the way on this. They’re looking to Queen’s Park and they’re looking to us as legislators to treat this issue very, very seriously and to pass some legislation that’s going to make their stay in school, for themselves and their colleagues, the sort of stay that we want them to have, free from the violence, the bullying and the harassment that lead to the sort of phone calls that I get and you’ve probably gotten from emergency—

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): Thank you. The member for Dufferin–Caledon.

Ms. Sylvia Jones: I’m pleased to rise to make some comments on London–Fanshawe’s 10-minute presentation.

I have to say as a parent that I want to get this right. As a legislator, we have a responsibility to ensure that our children are protected, whether they’re in school or playing in sports in our communities. I want to make sure we do it right. Bill 14, Bill 13—I don’t care. Let’s just make sure it’s done right.

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There is an example of a program in my community of Dufferin–Caledon that has been doing some excellent work—their mission includes the prevention of violence. Family Transition Place is who has been doing it since 2000, and they have a highly successful, multi-session program based in the local school program. I’ve actually been working with various Ministers of Education to try to go beyond the Dufferin–Caledon borders. It’s an eight- to 10-week program that focuses on developing skills and attitudes that enable youth to build and maintain healthy relationships based on mutual respect. The program includes discussions around healthy body image, assertive communication skills, healthy anger strategies, bullying, cyberbullying, self-esteem and confidence.

Since the program began, feedback from the two school boards that are currently participating, the Upper Grand District School Board and the Peel District School Board, has been overwhelmingly positive. Family Transition Place and their small team of three young people has been basically overwhelmed with the amount of requests for, “Come into our school. Help us deal with an issue that we have been trying to handle and we can’t get a handle on.”

So I just want to give a shout-out to Family Transition Place. I would encourage all members and the Minister of Education to delve further into that program, because it is phenomenal.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): The member from Hamilton East–Stoney Creek.

Mr. Paul Miller: I’d like to thank the member from London–Fanshawe for her good presentation. I can relate back to days long gone by, in the 1960s and 1970s, in my household. At the time, my mom was trying to get me to do figure skating and tennis. My dad wanted boxing, baseball and hockey. Guess who won: my dad. So I can understand the problem.

When I was in school, I was not the largest guy at the time. I grew later in life a little bit; in high school, I sprouted up. I was small but I was feisty, and I used to hate the bullies. I used to hate people bullying the little guys, and I had more than one altercation in school over the years, going after the bully, because I felt that they were not only using size; they were using intimidation and scare tactics. These kids were going home scared to death, afraid to come to school. I had one friend in particular that I used to walk to school with because he got picked on. There were a few fights in the ditches, I’ll tell you, on the way to school and back.

I’ll tell you, it’s a sad day when kids pick on kids because they’re different. I think that everyone has their rightful place in society and should be treated with respect and honour. I, for one, don’t like bullies, and I, for one, would stand up against bullies.

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

Ms. Tracy MacCharles: Just to continue my thoughts from last week on this very important topic of anti-bullying and Bill 13: As a chair of a student community council for many years in my riding of Pickering–Scarborough East and as a current member of the special advisory committee in the Durham District School Board, many people often ask me: “Why do we have to do this in the school environment? Isn’t this the parents’ responsibility to teach the proper values and behaviours at home?” To which I say, “Yes, it does start at home, but we do know that socialization, being at school, being with peers and friends, is where our values continue to get shaped and developed.” In fact, the research shows that the relationships children have with their peers, with their teachers and so on, play as big a role, if not even a bigger role, as children progress through to high school and beyond, than even the relationships with immediate family members. So it is extremely important that this legislation focus on providing the right kind of accountability, the right kind of supports for people in the school environment, whether it’s the bully, the bystander, the witness or the staff. It’s all critical that it happens at school.

The McGuinty government is committed to passing this bill as soon as possible. We want this in place before September of this school year. We’re committed to working with our colleagues to make this happen, and I strongly, strongly encourage the opposition not to play any games, not to ring any bells, and I call on them to help us pass this legislation as soon as possible.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): The member for London–Fanshawe has two minutes to respond.

Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: Thank you, Speaker, and those who commented on my thoughts on Bill 13. I think what I really want to say from the heart on Bill 13 is that the reasons why bullies do their bullying—we need to address that as well, because prevention, I think, starts first where the source is. Going back to when I was in public school, I think that’s why I got along with—I wanted to understand why, and also advocate on my friend’s part that she was a good person and, you know, “You’ve got to get to know her,” so that these people would stop teasing her and verbally tormenting her.

I think understanding where it’s coming from is very important, so that it can be prevented in the future—and also, of course, understanding the people who are the target of the bullying. They need support, and they need to have the proper resources in school to overcome this damage that can be done to your self-esteem and confidence over time so that they can grow into healthy young adults and eventually become parents and become just somebody who’s content with who they are.

We know that those scars can follow you for quite some time when people call you Four Eyes. In my case, I was called Four Eyes. It never bothered me. I kind of thought it was the way it was and that was just a little—if you wore glasses, you were called Four Eyes. But there were other kids who took it harder, and that’s what we have to remember. Not everybody will take a tease or bullying the same way, and the outcome can affect people differently.

So when we’re designing this bill, I think we need to make sure we have the preventive measures and look at why people are bullying, why the children are bullying. And the people that are being bullied, let’s try to help them to get over that type of trauma.

Second reading debate deemed adjourned.

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