March 29, 2012 Bill 14

ANTI-BULLYING ACT, 2012 /
LOI DE 2012 SUR LA LUTTE
CONTRE L’INTIMIDATION

Mrs. Witmer moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 14, An Act to designate Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week in Schools and to provide for bullying prevention curricula, policies and administrative accountability in schools / Projet de loi 14, Loi désignant la Semaine de la sensibilisation à l’intimidation et de la prévention dans les écoles et prévoyant des programmes-cadres, des politiques et une responsabilité administrative à l’égard de la prévention de l’intimidation dans les écoles.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Pursuant to the standing orders, the member has 12 minutes for her presentation.

Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer: I just want to say how very pleased I am today to bring forward this anti-bullying bill in order to raise awareness and to prevent what we see as a growing problem of bullying in our schools.

I would begin by saying that bullying has absolutely no place in our schools. For whatever reason, whether it is physical, verbal, social or cyberbullying, it is a cruel practice that has far-reaching consequences for the victim, for the bully and for their families.

I want to, at this time, express my appreciation to all those who are here today in support of Bill 14. I’d like to welcome in particular Lynne MacIntyre, the founder of the Guelph Anti-Bullying Coalition. There are about nine anti-bullying coalitions in the province of Ontario, and it is people like Lynne and other members of coalitions and students who have come forward and helped to raise my awareness of the issue, beginning about three years ago.

I’d also like to thank Briar McDonald from Guelph, a student who was here today and participated in our press conference to share her views on making our schools safe for students so that our students could learn. I’d like to thank the other students who are here as well.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my colleague Lisa MacLeod. She is our education critic, and she has been a very strong advocate regarding bullying, not only here in the Legislature but in her home community of Ottawa. She has done an outstanding job in emphasizing the need for us to put aside partisan politics and to make sure that we come up with a bill that responds to the needs of the students in our schools. I say thank you to Lisa.

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This bill is the result of advice and stories that I have received from people during the past three years. It includes people like Mike Neuts of Chatham, whose 10-year-old son Myles was found hanging on a coat hook in the washroom of his school and never came home. It includes Katie Neu of Listowel, who was bullied from the time she was in kindergarten, and when she couldn’t take it any longer in grade 9, left school and got her certificate online. She now is doing all she can to support other young people who have been bullied. It includes the Hubleys of Ottawa, whose son Jamie took his own life after he was subjected to homophobic bullying. It includes 11-year-old Mitchell Wilson, a Pickering boy, who committed suicide as a result of bullying because of his muscular dystrophy.

This bill is influenced by their stories and the stories of hundreds of other parents, students and teachers who met with me, emailed or phoned to tell me about the impact of bullying on their lives.

This bill was influenced by the high statistics on bullying, such as the survey by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, which states that about one third of students have been bullied and another one third have been the bully; and of course the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association 2010 survey of grade 12 students, which found that 46% had either been the victim or the perpetrator of bullying.

This bill is influenced by the far-reaching consequences of bullying on both the perpetrator and those who are bullied. Research shows that those who are bullied may suffer anxiety, depression, substance abuse, low self-esteem and academic failure and, as we hear too often today, commit suicide. However, the research also shows that those who bully learn to use aggression as a form of power and may become abusive adults or become involved in violent crime in later life. Thus, based on the first-hand concerns brought to my attention by students, parents and teachers when I was the education critic, the alarming high statistics of bullying and the far-reaching consequences of this behaviour, this bill is intended to address those concerns. It will enshrine into law my resolution on Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week, which was unanimously passed by this Legislature in 2010.

I want to thank my executive assistant, Dan Powers, for his outstanding work in the preparation of this bill. This bill is also the result of having done research on all of the legislation available throughout North America. The bill focuses on prevention, accountability and awareness. It provides for a formalized process; clear responsibilities; and support for victims, perpetrators and teachers.

Now, you may ask: How does it help prevent bullying, and how is it different? Number one, you will see here a clear definition of bullying. Also, there will be early intervention and incorporation of bullying education into the curriculum. There will be a ministry model for prevention and intervention plans. There will be the provision of services for the victim and the perpetrator. There will be ongoing professional development support for teachers and there will be prompt reporting of incidents and investigations.

What does the bill accomplish? The number one concern for parents was what they perceived to be a lack of accountability and a clear process for reporting and investigating. So this bill makes significance improvements in accountability by mandating that statistics on bullying be kept and tracked by each school, principal, board and ministry, and that these would be reported to the minister and released to the public each year. There would be a clear, articulated process for reporting and investigating, because we do believe that we need a formalized and entrenched process of reporting, monitoring and investigating. This was probably the most serious deficiency that was brought to our attention, not only by parents, but also by teachers.

This bill will remove the ambiguity surrounding the role and responsibilities of the principal and staff. This bill will provide a clearly defined course of action that must be taken when bullying occurs. It includes notifying the parents, and that means both the parents of the bully and of the child who has been bullied. It also requires that, in the event that there’s a need for police involvement, the police would be notified. It also provides for support and counselling to both the bullied and the perpetrator, because obviously we want to make sure that the perpetrator becomes aware that that behaviour will not be tolerated and is helped to recognize how that behaviour needs to change. The bill also provides clarity, publicity and education.

The definition that I have put forward is a very comprehensive definition. It also includes a definition of “cyberbullying,” which of course seems to be spreading with each day.

As well, the ministry will be responsible for developing an anti-bullying plan. That will be shared with the boards and the schools, and they will also be responsible for developing their own anti-bullying plan, and it will need to be published in student and employee handbooks and made available to parents and posted on websites.

Bullying prevention and intervention will be incorporated into the curriculum, starting in kindergarten. Again, parents will be provided with anti-bullying literature and resources.

So we have before us today a bill that addresses the deficiencies that we have heard are in the legislation as it currently exists in the province of Ontario. We have heard and we have listened to students and to parents and to teachers. In fact, the ETFO has, I know, sent a document to the Minister of Education indicating the parts of our bill that they believe need to be incorporated into Bill 13.

I certainly want to thank all those who, over the course of the past three years, have stepped forward, some with tremendous courage—Mr. Speaker, I’ve never heard stories as ones I’ve heard over the last three years: the situations that parents and children have found themselves in as a result of bullying. It really is quite incomprehensible.

So today, we do have an opportunity, and I am optimistic because I’ve heard the Premier say that he would like us to work together, that he would like us to set aside partisan politics. When we talk about bullying in our schools or in our communities, we all have an obligation to do what we can on behalf of our students.

I hope that we can move forward. I hope that this bill will be supported, because it provides a strategy to raise the awareness of bullying, and that is very, very important. It provides a strategy to prevent bullying; it provides a process to resolve it; and it provides the data for us to learn from it.

So today, I want to conclude by a quote that was used by Lynne MacIntyre in her remarks today, and it’s from Maria Robinson. It says: “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” I encourage us to work together to do so today on behalf of the students in our schools.

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

Mr. Jonah Schein: I’m pleased to rise to speak to this issue. It’s obviously a matter of importance, so I thank the member from Kitchener–Waterloo for bringing it up. It’s important enough that we actually have two bills before the House right now speaking about bullying. I think they’re both worthy of consideration and that the debate is important and must happen here in this House.

Bullying is not something that’s easily legislated, however. I think it takes a comprehensive approach to deal with the complicated issues around bullying. I’ve worked in schools, I’ve worked as a social worker in low-income communities, and I think the answers to bullying must be comprehensive.

Things have changed a bit since I was in school as a student, for a number of reasons. There are students now more than ever who are judged based on their family’s ability to buy them fancy clothes and shoes and commodities, and that wasn’t the case as much when I was a kid. I think that if we’re going to take a real approach to bullying, we need to include these kinds of social factors as well, to make sure there’s a comprehensive approach that deals with inequities across our province.

When I talk to folks whose children experience bullying, it’s often because they don’t have the same resources when they enter school and go to school, and they’ve spent their summers without the same access to summer camps and educational experiences as their peers. And when they arrive at school, they don’t have the same kind of clothing as their peers.

I have some real concerns about the fact that there is growing inequality across this province and in schools and for students across this province. I have real concerns that children on social assistance a few years ago lost their back-to-school allowance, so people have even less chance to be equal with their peers when it comes to these things.

The other thing that’s changed since my time as a student is that I see growing user fees within our school system. This is absolutely opposite to our Education Act, to what it stands for. It means that people who can’t afford to eat the pizza lunch that’s served at school—because people are paying a user fee to use that—are ostracized. It’s very stigmatizing to be a student in a classroom who can’t keep up with their peers, through no fault of their own.

I think that any kind of approach to bullying—I’m glad to see the compassion within this House for young people, but I think that a real approach will look at the social factors as well.

I also think we need to support teachers to do their work here as well. We’re hearing that there might be as much as—there are cuts to our education system, $500 million of missing money. In my experience, bullying happens when nobody’s there to watch. If we’re cutting back on supports in our schools, it means there are more opportunities for bullying to happen.

I will be supporting this bill. I would encourage it to go to committee and to be considered with Bill 13 as well, and that we work together to strengthen this bill. I do have some concerns, though, that we not take a punitive approach to bullying as well. A holistic approach means standing up to make sure that victims are supported in their time of need, but also that we are not only punishing bullies but making sure that they have the supports they need—because often the bullies themselves are the students who need the most support—and to make sure they have options as well, so that we don’t go into a situation like we had before with the Safe Schools Act, where people are thrown out of school with no supports around them. That’s something that’s quite important to me.

I also think we should consult with the researchers on bullying. There’s an increasing volume of research being done about bullying. We haven’t talked about the role of the bystander in this. I think that supporting the school curriculum to include bullies and victims, but also the role of the bystander in stopping bullying, is quite important.

I think, in the end, we need to look at this. We need to look at the factors around poverty in our school system, around racism and discrimination and homophobia. We need to make sure that students have the supports that they have in the school, that we have sexual health classes that explain the diversity of health factors that people will experience growing up and the different experiences people have. And we need to make sure this is part of a curriculum, that students feel welcome in their schools, that their different experience is allowed for, and to make sure that students have access to GSAs, if they need them.

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

Mr. Yasir Naqvi: Speaker, I stand here today very encouraged. I’m encouraged because the members in the assembly are united. They are united to put an end to bullying in our schools and outside our schools.

It is rare, Speaker, and you know that: that on an important topic like this, you will have two bills presented at the same time. That speaks volumes. And both bills are good bills, are strong bills, and have good features in them. But that speaks to the reality that we, as the representatives of the people, which includes our children, are united. To any person, any child, any student who is listening to this debate or may hear of this debate: I want them to know that the hope is here; that their representatives, that the grown-ups, understand the issue that they’re going through, understand that they are being harmed, victimized and terrified, and we’re working very hard together to find a solution to make it easier for them in their own schools, in their own homes.

That’s why, Speaker, it’s incumbent on us that we work together as people, not as Liberals, not as New Democrats, not as Progressive Conservatives. All those labels have no meaning when it comes to the well-being of our children. What matters the most is that we realize our responsibility to look after our children, to make sure that they are getting a good education in a healthy environment, and that they are accepted and celebrated for who they are. That’s, I think, the environment most of us grew up in. Those are the opportunities that were given to us, and those are the things that we need to realize.

I want to commend the member from Kitchener–Waterloo for presenting Bill 14. I want to congratulate the Minister of Education for presenting Bill 13. I’ve had the chance, Speaker, to read both of those bills line by line. There are a lot of commonalities in those bills; that’s a good sign. There are a lot of things that are similar. There are strengths in both the bills and there are weaknesses in both. I think we can gain so much if, as members, we bring these two bills together, take those strong points and make it an even stronger law that will protect our children.

There’s another very important point that I want to make, Speaker, and I think the member from Toronto Centre, the Minister for Training, Colleges and Universities, this morning, when he was speaking about Bill 13, made a very passionate plea about that. The most common, the most basic thing we can do is encourage tolerance. That’s just the starting point, Speaker. I don’t want to be tolerated for the fact that I have a different faith or different complexion or I speak with an accent. That’s just a given. We need to go beyond that. We need to focus on acceptance, that we get accepted for who we are; and then we need to take a step further, and that is celebration, that we encourage each other for who we are and we accept that and learn from each other. Because all of us are different—every single one of us is different—and we all have something to contribute and learn from each other. That is the essence, Speaker, that we need to capture in anti-bullying legislation that will be passed as law by this Legislature.

Be it that you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender; be it that you’re disabled; be it that you’re fat or skinny; be it that you’ve got freckles or not; no matter what—Muslim, Christian, Jew, no matter—I want to know. I want to learn from you. I want to get to know how things are for you. You hear my story, you’ll share your story—I think that’s what makes us stronger as a society. That’s the province I’m so proud to call home. That’s the province that my parents chose to come to from a developing country and make this place a home, because they knew that their children would be equal and would be celebrated.

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That’s what we need to accomplish through anti-bullying legislation. We need to get to the core issue here. Making plans and all those things are great and they’re important. We need to get to the core of the cultural issue here. We know we have a challenge to deal with when we’ve got protesters outside—and I respect their democratic right to protest, but the fact that there is a protest, or multiple protests out there talking about gays or not gays, lesbians or this or that: That’s a cultural issue that we need to deal with. Because that should not be an issue whatsoever; the issue should be the protection of our children.

So I really encourage, Speaker—and I’m confident. I’m an optimist. I’m extremely confident that the 107 members of this House are going to pull together. They’re going to put their heads aside—the Liberal, the Conservative, the New Democrat head—and we’re going to bring our best ideas and we’re going to produce one of the strongest pieces of law ever produced from any Legislature dealing with anti-bullying so we can really, in a meaningful fashion, help our kids and make our schools that beacon, the incubators of learning where everybody is accepted for who they are and celebrated for their diversity. Thank you very much, Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The member from Nepean–Carleton.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the opportunity to engage in debate of Bill 14 and to further extend the conversation we’ve been having in this chamber about bullying for quite some time now.

Before I get into the meat of my remarks, I would like to acknowledge and thank the member for Kitchener–Waterloo for putting substantial thought into practice by placing this bill before us. I would also like to thank the Minister of Education. While we do not always agree, the reality is, she has thought enough about this that she has placed Bill 13 before the chamber, and I do want to thank and acknowledge her for her work in this regard.

The previous speaker is the member from Ottawa Centre. I consider him to be a friend of mine and someone I admire greatly. I know that this issue has impacted him, as it has me, because of something that’s been in our community. We’ve had the opportunity and the good fortune to work together with a parent whose child was bullied, effectively, to death, because he chose to die by suicide. The member opposite and I came together in February to do some work to prevent youth suicide in our community, so we put aside the partisan differences, and I want to thank the member for his work on that.

A few other members spoke this morning on Bill 13, and I was listening from my office. I had a meeting, but I wanted to hear the debate. I would like to acknowledge them, because the members that I did hear speak all spoke about their own personal experiences with bullying. Although we may come from different political parties, the reality is that bullying affects everybody in varying degrees. So I would like to thank the member—the first person I actually heard speak was the member from Pickering–Scarborough East. She talked about her son. The speaker after that, I do believe, was the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, and I appreciated his emotional and passionate discussion. It’s important that we bring that to this House, it’s important that we listen to each other, and it’s important we share those stories. That is, I think, probably the good thing that’s come out of having two bills on the order paper at the same time dealing with this substantial issue.

Also my colleague from Burlington spoke at length about this, Speaker. Her son has been a victim of bullying. To her credit, she is a new member, and the first thing she did when she became elected is she sent a letter to both myself and to our caucus chair, Mrs. Witmer, asking if we could do something on bullying here in the Ontario Legislature. So I want to congratulate the member, Jane McKenna from Burlington, for talking about that.

But let’s talk about the key elements of Bill 14 that are absent, I believe, in the Liberal bill but are very substantial in this bill.

Interjections.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Order, please.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Thanks, Speaker. The member here from Kitchener–Waterloo—a former Minister of Education, a former chair of a school board, a former teacher and education critic—spent well over two and a half years putting together research, conducting interviews, consulting with constituents across the province to develop, I think, probably the strongest piece of legislation on anti-bullying in North America. She put together a bill that includes tracking and investigating of bullying incidents, and awareness, which is very important that we all talk about, which we are doing now. There are accountability mechanisms built in place in her bill, which is very important. As a parent I say that, but also as a legislator that’s important.

Something that I believe is very important for all of us to talk about is remediation. Let me talk for one minute about remediation. Let’s talk a bit about children who are in elementary school, who may be a bully. We don’t want that child to be doomed for the rest of their life and destined to a life where they are ostracized as being a bully and they end up committing some type of a crime. We have an opportunity in this Legislature with this piece of legislation to create the ability for all of us to work together, to be part of remediating some of our children in Ontario.

Speaker, I will cede the floor at this particular point because I do know there are other members from the Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus who would like to speak to this important legislation. Thank you.

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

Mr. Rosario Marchese: I am quite happy to support this bill. The member from Kitchener–Waterloo and I have worked on this issue for quite some time. We’ve been in similar committees for a long time. She and I were in one committee where we heard horrible stories of bullying on the children of these mothers—because I think they were all mothers, the ones that came in front of our committee. The stories that were recounted talked about the hurt of the children and the hurt of the parents and the failure of our educational system to deal with them. It was remarkable—remarkable, I say, because I was a former teacher and former school trustee, an education critic for quite a long time. To see those failures not addressed was pretty horrible. You would hear people talking about how processes are in place to deal with it, but the processes that were there did not work.

So Bill 14 is something that I have no problem supporting. Bill 13 is a bill I have no problem supporting either. They actually complement each other, and I would hope that many of the Conservative members would support Bill 13, as I will be supporting Bill 14.

Both contain elements that are supportable. Much of what is in Bill 13 is in Bill 14 as well, with some additions where they define bullying as a severe and repeated harmful behaviour, which I think is a good thing to add; and requiring the minister’s annual report to the Legislature to include school board data about bullying incidents, which I think is a very reasonable thing to do. The inclusion of bullying prevention in the curriculum, I think, is good. There are some limitations on that. I want to speak to that in a minute or two—we don’t have much time—but it’s a good thing.

Clarify—the principal should forward reports on school bullying to the minister; I think this is important. Approval of board anti-bullying plans by the minister, and the development of anti-bullying plans by school boards in consultation with parents—all of this is very positive and helpful, and I believe that everybody in this House is going to be supporting it.

There are some limitations on both bills. Some of you will recall, at least those of you who have been around for a while, that there was a Falconer report that was commissioned. We have never dealt with the recommendations made by Mr. Falconer. I want to highlight some of them, because as the Falconer report made clear, preventing violence in schools requires adequate resources for proper student supervision, adequate funding, community outreach workers to build links with the community, and adequate funding for student supports such as social workers and child and youth workers. None of these bills speak to what Falconer did by way of his report—and, by the way, his report was quite thick.

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It is clear that the Toronto Board of Education that commissioned it couldn’t do very much, because they’re limited by way of funding. You will know that they have an $85-million deficit that is going to devastate the board, because it means the firing or the loss of 1,000 workers in the educational field, which is devastating. It’s difficult for the board to have implemented the Falconer report because they do not have the money, having lost the ability to raise money on their own. because they rely on provincial, central governments for that funding. But we don’t speak at all—this bill doesn’t speak at all—to that or to the inadequacies of Bill 13, which do not speak to this either.

Unless we address that, we are not dealing with the causes of violence. Nobody speaks to it, and we need to. Why is it that students do that? Neither of the two bills attempt to deal with it. Both bills pass on a great responsibility to boards and educators, without the adequate supports.

Now, I know that my good friend from Kitchener–Waterloo talks about some curriculum support for the teachers, or professional development. I don’t see it, but it must be there, because the supports to teachers and to principals at the moment are inadequate. Principals are getting an incredible amount of additional work that both parties have passed on over the years, without the adequate supports. Unless we give them the support, they cannot do the job very well. It’s very easy for us to demand they do more. It’s very easy to put it in the curriculum. But when it comes to what supports school boards get and what supports teachers and principals get, they are lacking. For too long, boards have had to rely on their scarce resources to invite experts to talk about bullying and what it is they could do about it. They can’t do this job on their own without support from provincial governments.

So we need to deal with the causes of violence. We need to understand why perpetrators do this. And, yes, we need to protect the victims, above all. But we have a job to do in terms of how we protect the victims and how we deal with the perpetrator as to why it is that those things happen in the first place. We’ve got to deal with issues of poverty; we’ve got to deal with issues of inequality; we’ve got to deal with issues of racism; and we’ve got to deal with issues of violence against gays and lesbians in our school system. That is a reality that we cannot avoid. We’ve got to deal with all of these issues.

Above all, teachers, principals and boards need our financial support. Without it, both Bill 13 and Bill 14 will have a limited effect.

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

Mrs. Liz Sandals: I’m very pleased to be able to speak to Bill 14 from the member from Kitchener–Waterloo.

When I walked in here on Monday, I was very optimistic, because I saw that the order paper for the week had the government bill, Bill 13, beginning to be debated, and I saw that Ms. Witmer’s bill, Bill 14, was going to be debated. I think both bills have good ideas. I think there’s great opportunity to consolidate the good ideas from both bills, and I was feeling very optimistic. Then we got to the actual debate on Monday afternoon, and that optimism evaporated when we saw what happened with ringing bells and carrying on by the official opposition. I thought, “Where is the spirit of co-operation here?” But on reflection, I do think there are good ideas in Bill 14, and some of us have to behave like grown-ups. I will support Bill 14.

I was very encouraged this morning when we went back to Bill 13 and everybody who spoke to it, I think, was quite encouraging—the member from High Park, the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities—

Interjection.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Member from Durham, come to order, please. If you’re going to heckle, you have to sit in your seat.

Mrs. Liz Sandals: I was very encouraged by the debate this morning.

I am not encouraged by what is going on outside this House right now, which is a horrendous homophobic demonstration. But what I do understand is that it is not the doing of the member for Kitchener–Waterloo, who truly cares—

Mr. John O’Toole: There’s another remark. It’s a values statement. Who made you the expert?

Mrs. Liz Sandals: Well that’s an interesting comment: Who made me the expert? Because what I was just going to talk about was the fact that I have spent a lot of my time around here chairing a committee, the safe schools action team, that was appointed by the Premier.

The safe schools action team, while it was chaired by me, a politician, was in fact composed of non-politicians. The people who were on the committee included Deb Pepler, who is not just a nationally recognized researcher and expert, but actually an internationally recognized researcher and expert on bullying who works out of York U and Sick Kids; Ray Hughes, who worked at CAMH Centre for Prevention Science—his particular area of expertise is looking at how we implement programs in bullying prevention, and in particular, teaching students to be respectful of each other; and Stu Auty, whom many in the education field will know is the president of the Canadian Safe School Network. Then later we added Lynn Ziraldo, who for many, many years—I think both with Mrs. Witmer as Minister of Education and into the Liberal Ministers of Education—was the chair of the minister’s Advisory Committee on Special Education; and Inez Elliston, who was a former member of the board of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

We actually produced three different reports. We did three cycles of the province on various different areas of bullying prevention and safe schools work. So there were really province-wide consultations three times, and Bill 13 is actually the third piece of legislation.

So, in response to, “How did I get to have some opinions about this,” it’s from years of work.

There are a lot of ideas in Bill 14 that I support: Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week; the idea that we need to provide help for both victims and bullies is absolutely essential; the detail that the member has thought through, in terms of bullying prevention plans, I think, is very valuable; and the idea that we’ll provide a provincial template, I think, is also very valuable.

What is important to me is that we save the definition that’s in Bill 13: “‘bullying’ means repeated and aggressive behaviour by a pupil where … the behaviour is intended by the pupil to cause” and it goes on with a bunch of legal words “harm, fear or distress”—

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Thank you.

The member from Wellington–Halton Hills.

Mr. Ted Arnott: It’s a real honour to have the chance to speak in support of Bill 14, An Act to designate Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week in schools and to provide for bullying prevention curricula, policies and administrative accountability in schools.

This bill was introduced last fall—November 30, to be exact—by my colleague the MPP for Kitchener–Waterloo. She brings her experience as a school board trustee, school board chair, MPP for six straight terms and minister of some of the most important and challenging ministries in the provincial government, including Deputy Premier. She brings her compassion and sense of fairness, and most notably today in this minority Parliament, where we need to look for opportunities to work together across party lines, setting aside the hyper-partisanship that occasionally infects this place and make a sincere effort to work together.

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Ten years ago, when the province had a balanced budget and a Progressive Conservative government—the two went together for some reason—the member for Kitchener–Waterloo was the Minister of Education and I was the parliamentary assistant to the minister. Even then she was saying we needed to do something to address the bullying problem in our schools. More recently, she brought forward a resolution in this House in 2010 calling attention to the issue of bullying, as a first step.

And now we have Bill 14. Bill 14 is comprehensive. It is based on thorough research of the best practices in jurisdictions across North America and honest consultation with Ontario educators, parents and students. Bill 14 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.

Bill 14 stands up to bullying and addresses bullying head-on. Here’s how: It addresses the issues of reporting and investigation of bullying, accountability of school officials and boards to the ministry, education and public awareness to prevent bullying, and remedial action for bullies to teach them that bullying is totally unacceptable. Bill 14 provides for a formalized process, clear responsibilities and resources for victims and perpetrators. So I support Bill 14.

It’s worthwhile to point out that Bill 14 is supported by the president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, Sam Hammond, and he has written to express his support. I think it’s also important to acknowledge the Premier’s public statements on this issue, which imply that he believes Bill 14 has merit and his belief that the principles articulated in Bill 14 should be incorporated into the government’s bill—that the two bills could be merged.

Let’s look at Bill 14 in greater detail. Bill 14, the Anti-Bullying Act, includes:

—a clear definition of bullying;

—early intervention and incorporation into the curriculum starting in kindergarten;

—a province-wide ministry model for prevention and intervention plans;

—the development of detailed school board prevention plans, counselling services for the victim and perpetrator;

—ongoing professional development, parental and community education and consultation;

—publicizing anti-bullying initiatives and policies; and

—reporting of incidents and prompt investigations.

Mr. Speaker, the member for Kitchener–Waterloo deserves credit and the appreciation of this House for the work that she’s done on this issue and her sincere commitment to creating a framework where every student in our schools can learn without fear.

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

Mr. Rob Leone: I’m pleased to rise to speak to Bill 14 and to congratulate the member for Kitchener–Waterloo, who has spent a long time developing this bill. Certainly, she had the goal of creating a very robust, comprehensive and hopefully leading bill in North America with respect to anti-bullying. I congratulate her for her work. I congratulate her for what she’s done.

I want to state very clearly to this House that when it comes to bullying—and I want to acknowledge some of the things that the member for Ottawa Centre had said. I agree with him that we have to set our partisanship aside, that we have to focus to the greatest extent on making sure that we’re standing up for our kids, that we’re protecting our kids. That must be the first course of business in this Legislature. It evidently corresponds with a conservative principle, Mr. Speaker. We believe that governments should and can intervene to protect people. It’s called the harm principle—the harm principle that I stated and talked about earlier this morning in my comments—from John Stuart Mill, who states, “That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” I think that’s something that we share in this Legislature, a commitment to protecting people from harm. I think that’s essentially what we’re talking about in this bill.

I also want to acknowledge the member for Wellington–Halton Hills, who talked about our time in government. We also, during that time, introduced the Safe Schools Act, so we were very much interested in protecting our kids from violence in the classroom, and we do that and continue to do that in our deliberations on Bill 13 and Bill 14.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a little bit about some of the things that people have said about bullying. Rigby, for example, wrote, in a 2002 book, New Perspectives on Bullying, that it involves simply six criteria: It involves a desire to hurt, a harmful action, a power imbalance, typically it involves repetition, an unjust use of power and, finally—and I think an important one that we should underline—evident enjoyment by the aggressor and generally a sense of being oppressed on the part of the victim.

Certainly, that is the goal of this legislation. This legislation will go a long way to eliminating particularly all those points, but that last line, the “enjoyment of the aggressor,” simply shouldn’t happen. We have to minimize to the greatest extent possible the oppression on the part of the victim. I think we’d go a long way in helping our kids feel safe in their classrooms.

Finally, in the short time that I have left, I want to also highlight one of the points in this bill that I really think is necessary and important to discuss. It has to do with cyberbullying. I think that the nature of bullying today has changed. It’s very easy to put something on the Internet, to spread these rumours very quickly. It’s actually permanent, and we can’t do very much about that.

I applaud that aspect of this bill, and I’ll support it wholeheartedly.

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

Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer: I’m very pleased to express my thanks to the members for Davenport; Ottawa Centre; Nepean–Carleton, our education critic; the member for Trinity–Spadina, with whom I’ve spent a lot of time engaged in, hopefully, helping to improve the educational system in the province of Ontario; the member for Guelph, who, like me, served as chair of a school board; the member for Wellington–Halton Hills, who was actually my parliamentary assistant in 2003, and he has reminded me that I had tasked him just before that election with taking a look at how we could continue to do everything possible to prevent and eliminate bullying; and, of course, my newest colleague the member from Cambridge, who represents his riding so very well.

I think it’s clear, when we hear all of the comments that have been made in here today, that nobody has a monopoly on being concerned about the issue of bullying and the impact it has on those that are bullied, the negative impact it has on the perpetrator as well and, of course, the families who suffer the consequences.

We do have an opportunity today in this House to pass this bill, and I hope that we will, and obviously, then, we need to move forward. I think it’s incumbent upon us to put aside any differences we may have and try to come up with legislation that will ensure that our students can go to school and feel safe, because in order to learn, they need to feel safe.

I would just conclude with a comment in a letter that I received from Karen Sebben and Corina Morrison, both on different anti-bullying coalitions. They say to me here, “To those of you who have had the benefit of being elected into power, dig into your conscience and do what is right for Ontario families. You have an opportunity to collaborate and collectively take credit for doing something positively. Do so, knowing it is for the sake of our children.”

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Thank you. We’ll take the vote on this item later.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Ms. Witmer has moved second reading of Bill 14. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Second reading agreed to.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Pursuant to standing order 98(j), the bill is referred to the committee of—

Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer: The social policy committee.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The member has requested that the bill go to social policy. Is there agreement? Agreed? Agreed.

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