ACCEPTING SCHOOLS ACT, 2012 /
LOI DE 2012 POUR
DES ÉCOLES TOLÉRANTES
Resuming the debate adjourned on April 24, 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. Michael Harris: I’m pleased to resume debate on this important topic. As I said yesterday, many parents and students have contacted my office on this important issue, and I’m glad to leave my voice in this debate again today.
In fact, people outside the partisan fray really expect us to work together. Recently the Waterloo Region Record said that “government would be wise to look at Bill 14 with the thought of incorporating some of her suggestions”—“her” being the member from Kitchener–Waterloo, Elizabeth Witmer. “That’s because Bill 14 offers a much clearer, much more comprehensive approach to deal with bullying.”
I’d like to highlight some of the key provisions that address bullying in our bill, Bill 14. Bill 14 has an extensive component dealing with cyberbullying, something that obviously, with the Internet today, is becoming more prevalent, and we obviously need to address the cyberbullying aspect. Our bill would require the ministry to issue a yearly report on the number and severity of bullying incidents that occurred in the previous year and what steps the ministry has taken at further prevention. Our bill includes age-appropriate anti-bullying education in the provincial curriculum beginning in kindergarten, in fact, and continuing through elementary and secondary schools.
The PC bill, Bill 14, puts student safety first by mandating the Ministry of Education to establish a model bullying prevention plan that serves as the basis for school board prevention plans across our province. Bill 14 clearly stipulates that school boards are required to ensure that bullying is addressed effectively. The PC alternative requires bullying plans to be publicized and available to students in their agenda, online and throughout the school. It also requires take-home materials for parents and the posting of the plan on the school and board websites.
Our bill mandates that school boards provide remedial programs offered by social workers and psychologists for bullies. Our bill would require school boards to provide training and professional development opportunities for teachers on the issue of bullying. Our bill requires boards to offer voluntary programming for victims of bullying. Our PC Bill 14 formalizes a process for investigations to finally provide the accountability parents and students have demanded recently through the court system.
Mr. Speaker, when it comes to bullying, all members of this House agree that strong action is long overdue. Unfortunately, the Minister of Education seems to be stuck in a time warp, a pre-election Liberal utopia where this government can ignore members of the opposition and steamroll over all of us on this side of the House. Thankfully, Ontarians, those days are over. This minority Parliament means that we need to work together to put forward the best possible legislation to protect our children. It means that when the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario supports major elements of our Bill 14, the bill introduced by the member for Kitchener–Waterloo, the Liberals and the government need to take notice on that side. Still, the Liberals refuse to compromise, and actually moved forward unilaterally to end weeks of discussions on merging Bills 13 and 14.
Unlike the McGuinty government, we believe in tackling bullying head-on. That’s why our bill, Bill 14, addresses four critical areas: reporting and investigating of bullying; accountability of school officials and boards to the ministry; education/public awareness to prevent bullying; and remedial education for bullies to teach them that bullying is unacceptable.
While preparing to speak on this bill, I had the opportunity to read the words of a bullied student from York region, which I’d like to share with you today:
“For three long years, I waited for an adult to step up to the plate. You know, the people my parents taught me would help. No help came, and I was victimized for three long years. I almost became a statistic. I wanted to take my life. No one cared about my life and what I was experiencing, so why should I? It’s time to hold those accountable for the well-being of our youth. I no longer trust adults. Why should I?”
Today we have the opportunity to step up to the plate. We have the opportunity to put aside partisan politics, to put Ontario children and youth first. I encourage the Minister of Education, who’s here today, to return to the table and work with the opposition. We have the majority in this Legislature to create and pass a strong bill that is supported by parents and stakeholders and, most importantly, Speaker, for our youth today who, like the young gentleman in York, have experienced such dramatic bullying in their schools. I thank you for the opportunity.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): The member from Davenport.
Mr. Jonah Schein: I’ll just take a couple of minutes here to restate our absolute commitment to passing this bill and sending it to committee, and the fact that this Legislature has to get together and take both the Conservative bill and Liberal bill, take the best parts of them. Let’s get it done. This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen here, in terms of partisanship. Let’s move this forward. The only thing—and I’ve said it before as I’ve stood and spoken on this debate—is that we need to put resources to the anti-bullying curriculum as well. So just speaking about anti-bullying is one thing; putting real dollars behind it, putting resources in place for teachers to support both the victims of bullying and the folks who are involved in bullying, is the most important thing of all. But let’s put this aside. Let’s move forward. The government has my support on this and the support of our party to move this forward to committee. I hope that the opposition party will also move forward with this. I will sit down. Thank you, sir.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): The member from Mississauga-Streetsville.
Mr. Bob Delaney: Speaker, I say to my colleagues in the PC Party, if they really want to move forward on this, let’s let debate collapse. Let’s get it into committee. Let’s get it into committee today.
Seven times, representing 12 hours and 55 minutes of delay, the PC Party has just rung the bells needlessly on this bill. There’s no cause for it at all. The Minister of Education met with the member for Kitchener–Waterloo on February 23. They were able to agree that many elements could be included in both Bills 13 and 14. The Minister of Education provided the member for Kitchener–Waterloo with a list of elements of her bill to be included in the Accepting Schools Act as far back as February 27. Why are we standing here talking about this? Let debate collapse; let’s get it into committee.
The minister wrote to the MPP for Kitchener–Waterloo on March 28. The staff met on March 20. The Minister of Education again wrote to the MPP for Kitchener–Waterloo on April 11, informing her that more than half of her bill could simply be included in the Accepting Schools Act. And on April 18, the minister gave the member for Kitchener–Waterloo the proposed amendments that included more than half of her bill in legislative language.
There’s no more need to stand here and ring bells. There’s no more need to stand here and posture. What’s needed now is to let this debate collapse and get this bill into committee where both of them can be combined so that both bills can be enacted in time to be in force for the next school year.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Questions and comments?
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: I appreciate the opportunity to rise and to congratulate my colleague from Kitchener–Conestoga for taking a stand in this House today to talk about something that has been on everyone’s mind, and that is anti-bullying legislation in the province of Ontario.
I congratulate all members of the Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus who have done, unlike what most other members here have done which is actually take a stand and bring stories from their communities to share in this chamber. When we do that, the most disrespectful part of this is that they want to shut down debate. We have 37 members of our caucus. That’s 16 more members than what we had at this time last year. We know in our caucus that people feel that they would like to add their position on this legislation. It is their right to bring their views to this assembly on a matter of such great importance. What I find is shocking is something that this Liberal government has done for the six years that I have been here and the three mandates that I’ve been here, which is shut down public debate on issues of great importance. Yet they haven’t put forward a time allocation motion, which I suspect will be forthcoming.
That said, I will say this. Yesterday I did attend a social policy meeting. The gavel never did hit the table to start that meeting because the government used a procedural power play to block Bill 14, the only anti-bullying legislation that has passed second reading, from being discussed at committee. We know, having spoken with parents from across Ontario, that they support wholeheartedly the measures in Bill 14. If the Liberal Party was so focused on getting to work, they’d get to work at committee, support Bill 14 and put their amendments through at that stage.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Questions and comments?
Mr. John O’Toole: I thank our critic and the member from Kitchener–Conestoga, who I believe spoke compassionately and I believe effectively with respect to Bill 13.
Now, I really think that our critic, Ms. MacLeod, just now said the procedures on both sides of the House aren’t being helpful. We felt we had an agreement initially that Mrs. Witmer’s Bill 14 would go to committee along with Bill 13 and that there was a consensus that the two bills would be brought together and we could work together to make sure that, in respect to students and protecting their safety—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): The Speaker has noticed about five sidebars. I’m trying to listen and I can’t hear and I’m right here, so we’ll keep it down. If you have any disturbing discussions you want to attain, go outside. Thank you.
Mr. John O’Toole: Thank you for that kind interruption, Speaker. If you could put more time back on the clock, I could make my point more convincingly.
I think really the issue here is that, of the two bills, 13 and 14, Bill 14 is a more comprehensive bill. It has clear rules and definitions that are missing in 13 and we believe quite strongly that, working together, we can have a better piece of legislation that protects children from bullying. All of us have agreed at the start here that we are opposed to any form of bullying. Let’s not confuse this with other positions that have been stated here.
I think that the member from Kitchener–Conestoga made a very good reference about the young child being bullied for three long years. It’s about time we showed some respect for students and got this to committee, worked together so we have a bill ready for September.
Work with us. Our leader, Tim Hudak, has shown more compassion on this, I put to you, than the government side. You’ve tried to bully us into submission. That’s what’s happening.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): The member from Kitchener–Conestoga has two minutes.
Mr. Michael Harris: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I would like to thank those that provided comments on my first opportunity to speak to this important bill: the member from Davenport; the member from Mississauga–Streetsville; obviously our critic, the member from Nepean–Carleton; as well as the member from Durham.
In fact, the member from Durham just raised an important aspect of my comments, and that was from the young boy from York who was bullied for three years. As you are probably well aware, I recently had a new son, Murphy, who was born about nine weeks ago. And do you know what? When I look at him and read that story, I hope that stories like that don’t affect young Murphy when he gets older.
You know, last night after I made my initial remarks, I took them home and had a bit of a glance again at them. A couple of things that really stood out that I find shocking: in fact, bullying occurs every seven minutes in the playground in our schools throughout Ontario, every 25 minutes actually in the classroom; half of all Canadian adults, when asked, said that as a teenager they were bullied; 71% of students have identified bullying as an ongoing program.
I’d like to read an article by a father, Allan Hubley, who has been mentioned many times in this House, who was quoted recently as saying, “Every MPP needs to rise to the challenge to protect all of the children and get this bill passed. It’s important that each measure that they add into this bill helps the children, helps the kids. It’s just as important that people stay engaged in this discussion.” So I’ll echo the comments that the member from Durham just recently made and offer the government the opportunity to make this motion, in fact, to get this bill—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Okay, this is my last comment on this. If the member from Nepean–Carleton—sorry; if the members want to discuss this across the floor, while your person is speaking, I would suggest you cut it down. Otherwise you might want to go outside and you can make all the noise you want. That’s the last warning, folks. You’re finished? Thank you.
Mr. Michael Harris: I still have 15 seconds.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Well, I didn’t stop the clock. Your people were interrupting you, so you might want to blame them.
Mrs. Jane McKenna: I just wanted to start off by saying that the debate and discussion around this issue has been an exceptionally moving experience. It has really underscored the fact that underneath all of the armour and arguments we are flesh and blood, and it reminded me that those of us who are privileged to come together and work in this space are most persuasive when they speak from the heart and the personal experience. Remarks from the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities were very touching and enlightening, for example. The comments from the member from Scarborough–Agincourt also brought this issue home, from a different but no less touching perspective.
And of course, from our own caucus, I have been bowled over by the passion and perception of my Conservative colleagues. Two in particular stand out: the member from Nepean–Carleton, who spoke eloquently about the issue of bullying and the wrenching ways it has impacted the youth and families of her riding; and especially the member from Kitchener–Waterloo, whose dedication to this very important cause is inspiring in its depths of commitment. As a former teacher and education critic and a former Minister of Education, she brings a remarkable scope of experience to this very important issue.
This issue is something that has unfortunately become a timely and tragic concern for families and communities across this great province. As a mother of five children, bullying resonates with me on a core level. I feel it in my bones and in my heart, because I have gone through a number of episodes with my son. Bullying has driven me to pull him out of the school because things were just getting too far out of hand. It had gone beyond the ability of school administrators to intervene. My youngest, a teenager who is becoming more and more grown up every day, has in the past been persecuted for a vision problem he was born with. The problem was becoming out of hand. He had been beaten up so many times that we pulled him out of the unsafe environment. But even as I did that, I took him aside and said to him, “Son, I’m going to take you out and take you to another school. But ultimately you’re going to have to learn the tools to deal with people who treat you the way they do.” I didn’t want others to define who he is. I did not want him to cement his identity as a victim, but as someone who had control over his own destiny.
One evening when we were all home sitting together after dinner as a family and talking about this and that, eventually we got around to shoptalk, and we started talking about some of the debates we’ve had here in this space and some of the legislation before us. Sooner or later, we got talking about Bill 13 and Bill 14, and what it came around to was an idea that has been expressed here on more than one occasion, and certainly an idea my son has voiced, which is that we are all different—uniquely gifted, uniquely flawed—and that discrimination doesn’t play favourites.
It seems contradictory to want to advance the cause of any one group as being more. We are all God’s children. When my son sits there and says to me, “Mom, why are you just talking about one thing when we’re all discriminated against? That’s discrimination, when all of us feel the way we feel.”
Watching my son getting up every morning and going to school, I honestly can’t fathom how he could do that under a cloud of anxiety and fear. I think about tragic cases that made headlines last year, like that of Mitchell Wilson, who took his own life rather than return to the school where he was bullied relentlessly.
Our communities need to be accepting of everyone, places where all children and youth can grow and learn in an inclusive environment. This is something we are all responsible for. It falls to each of us—teachers, parents, peers, the whole community—to move forward together in a way that allows all students to feel safe, included and welcome in this province’s communities, not just in their schools. To varying degrees, we can all own the tragic failures of the system as it stands, and we must all do our part to create a safe environment for children, particularly in school.
Encouraging students to recognize and report bullying will reduce bullying and similar bad behaviour in their school.
Adults in the student’s life, whether at home or at school, must become fully aware of the extent of the bullying and victimization problems in the school. Empathy and intervention on the part of adults can lead to the kind of positive outcome that children and young people, especially those suffering bullying, feel powerless to make.
Parents also need to take responsibility for their own actions. The way parents behave around their children can sculpt their values and behaviours for years to come. It can also have a profound impact on the moral intelligence of those children. Kids see things very clearly, and they can carry the lessons of childhood for a lifetime. It is important that we raise them well.
If we truly want to make a difference, we must hold ourselves to a higher level. At the end of the day, I clearly want everybody to be accepted. I want all children and youth to be free to succeed in a safe, secure and positive environment. I want everybody to feel that they’re okay, and not be in a situation where they can’t get out of bed.
They feel that they need to be respected, loved and cared for. Every last one of us deserves that, Speaker. It comes down to tolerance, which is something at the heart of a civil society. That’s how we like to think of ourselves as a society and as a country.
It is unrealistic to expect kids to sort out or alter the dynamics of bullying by themselves. It is equally unrealistic to saddle schools with the bulk of the burden for promoting anti-bullying messaging and measures. Even so, schools are an important beachhead in the battle against bullying.
On this front, although we are considering two like-minded bills that were introduced back to back, I would suggest that Bill 14 is the stronger of the two. It addresses four critical areas in current provincial laws and policies as they pertain to school safety. Those are reporting and investigating, accountability, awareness, and remedial programs.
This, to me, is the crucial difference between Bill 13 and Bill 14. Bill 13 asks every school board to use anonymous surveys to collect information on bullying from its students at least once every two years—full stop. Bill 14, meanwhile, is very clear about its expectations when it comes to reporting, transparency and accountability. It spells out the responsibilities of principals to report on bullying incidents at least once a year, or more frequently if the school board requires. These reports must include the number of reports on acts of bullying received during the school year; the number of those cases in which the principal, after investigation, believes that bullying has occurred; and the number of those cases in which law enforcement officials were brought into the picture. That information goes up a chain of command to the minister, and from there into an annual report on the minister’s progress on anti-bullying.
Moreover, Bill 14 also requires that the board establish disciplinary action for persons who have falsely accused others of bullying. Bill 13 describes no such mechanism. Bill 14 advances the cause of anti-bullying in this province closer to ensuring that our schools and communities are given much-needed tools to eliminate bullying.
When we think of bullying, we tend to think first of the schoolyard, of incidents between children and youth, of suggested and explicit threats. But we have also recognized that bullying takes place across the entire spectrum of our lives on the most basic level. As Bill 13 notes, bullying behaviour occurs in cases “where there is a real or perceived power imbalance.”
But while Bill 13 does mention cyberbullying, it fails to do so with the level of detail that Bill 14 does. This issue is one that a lot of families have been dealing with in recent years, and it’s one that hits home for me, since one of my daughters, a sweet and kind girl, was a target of vicious cyberbullying at her school. Cyberbullying leaves real scars. It is a growing concern. With youth being so wired into the Internet, it opens the floodgates to 24/7 bullying, something we’ve never had to contend with until recently. We need to lock horns with that issue.
On those critical counts, I feel that Bill 13 falls short of Bill 14. But however this process plays out, I am confident that we can take what we have learned along the way and put it into action, creating robust anti-bullying legislation for our children. Anti-bullying legislation can make room for difference and usher in hope, but nobody can do this alone. We should join together in the interests of our children and work. Thank you so much.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Questions and comments?
Mr. Michael Mantha: You know, there’s no denying that there are goods and bads in both of these bills—and I shouldn’t say “bads”; that’s using the wrong term. But there’s goods in both of them, and we should be moving them forward.
I try and always look at the best in everybody in this room, and I choose—I choose—to believe that we all need to do the right thing and we all can do the right thing, and that’s ultimately what we want to do with both of these bills. So let’s get them to where we need to get them in order to address what we need.
I just wanted to give you a little introduction. I’ve introduced Candice in the past, but I want to introduce you to another fine young girl from Algoma–Manitoulin. Her name is Tamara Tait. I want to tell you a little bit of a story about her. This is a young girl who took an initiative upon herself to highlight her personal battle with youth depression and how her safe zone, which normally with kids is always in your home, wasn’t, for her. Her safe zone was in the school, where there was a guidance counsellor who actually recognized some of the problems and the issues that she was having. Her safe zone was sitting down with her and having those discussions. Now, if that guidance counsellor did not pay attention or have the tools in order to recognize the problems that this little girl was going through, she may have been lost—and that would have been a very, very big loss.
So this young girl—I supported her when she went into the regional public speaking competition in Sault Ste. Marie. She asked me to go support her. I wholeheartedly went there and sat down and listened to her great speech and her personal battle with youth suicide. Now, she was lucky—we are lucky to have her still with us today, and I’m going to be working with this young girl. But the final question she asked me a couple of weeks ago—she wants to have my opinion in regard to a paper that she’s doing, and this is her question, and I hope you guys all try and maybe look at it—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Thank you. I’m sorry; time’s up. Questions and comments? The member from Ottawa Centre.
Mr. Yasir Naqvi: Thank you very much, Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to respond to the member from Burlington.
This is a very important piece of legislation. This is a very important issue for this Legislature. I keep hearing all members agreeing with this. Most importantly, I’m hearing from students, from kids in my community in Ottawa, about this issue and the need to expedite the passage of Bill 13 as quickly as possible.
I want to read a couple of statements that I have received, and I have received hundreds, Speaker. Veronica wrote to me, “I want Bill 13 to happen because everyone is born as the person they are. It is not a choice. People should be able to be themselves and love who they want. I am disgusted at people allowing people to get bullied to the point of suicide. This needs to stop now. I’m a straight girl who loves people for who they are.” These are students, Speaker.
Ruth wrote, “I support Bill 13 because no one deserves to be pushed, beaten, spit on, called names, shunned, segregated or bullied for any reason. We can’t be judged for race. We can’t be judged for religion. Why should we be allowed to be judged based on sexuality? Please help change this.”
Speaker, students out there in my community in Ottawa just don’t get what the big fuss is here, why our bells are ringing. They ask me this question all the time. What is this delay? Why are we wasting 12 hours and 55 minutes of precious time in this Legislature? Why are we not just moving ahead with this bill now? Let’s bring Bill 13 and Bill 14 together so that we can create strong anti-bullying legislation in the province of Ontario and be a leader in the country.
This is a great opportunity for us to demonstrate to young people how noble this profession is, how public service is the epitome of helping our communities. By passing this bill, by making sure that we get Bill 13 to committee so that we can work on Bill 13 and Bill 14 together, we can help students like Ruth and Veronica in my community in Ottawa.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Questions and comments?
Mr. John Yakabuski: I want to thank my colleague from Burlington for her views on the debate before the Legislature today on Bill 13, and also her views on Bill 14.
Right now, Bill 14 has already passed second reading. It’s before committee. The government that talks about obstruction, and how they are opposed to obstruction, is the very group of people obstructing the passage of Bill 14 and its work through committee right now. They talk out of both sides of their mouths when it comes to the issue of bullying.
I had the opportunity during the break week to visit St. Mary’s Catholic school in Deep River for an anti-bullying day. I was pleased to meet with them, address them, participate in some of their program. Clearly, one of the things that I can see there is that they’re not interested in the political games that the government is playing. They’re interested in doing something to combat bullying.
When you look at the two bills, and you look at the meat and the teeth that are in Bill 14, that was introduced in this House by my colleague from Kitchener–Waterloo, Ms. Witmer, and has passed second reading, it is clear that that is the bill that will actually do something to combat bullying. It’s not a politicized bill that is trying to divide people based on one issue. People are bullied for a variety of reasons, and no one reason for bullying has more gravity than any other.
The one thing that is absolutely certain, Speaker, is that bullying is wrong, regardless of who the bully is and who is being bullied. If these people on the other side would get that, they would be working harder to pass Bill 14 and move ahead with Liz Witmer’s bill.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): The member from Algoma–Manitoulin for the second time.
Mr. Michael Mantha: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and with your indulgence, I’ll be splitting my time with my friend from Trinity–Spadina—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Sorry, I just—
Mr. Michael Mantha: I know this is out of order—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Sorry. Member, please sit down. You’re not allowed to do twice, I’ve just been informed.
The member from Trinity–Spadina.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: I just want to say that New Democrats support Bill 14, which is the Conservative bill, and New Democrats support Bill 13, which is the Liberal bill, and we think this conflict can be solved. What we clearly have here is not a failure to communicate. We have two bills that each bring something that makes anti-bullying a much better thing in this province, and I’m happy to say that we New Democrats are happy to mediate these differences between Liberals and Conservatives.
We are not far off. I mean, New Democrats support much of what is in Bill 13 and support much of what is in Bill 14. We just have to problem-solve here. I know it’s difficult in politics, and when someone says, “There are no politics in what we’re doing but there’s politics in what you’re doing,” it’s hard to trust, right? There are politics in everything we do and say, all of the time. And what New Democrats are trying to say is that there is something good in both bills. It’s not that one has more meat than the other, and that’s why we should support the one with the better red meat. I’m not sure that’s the way we should approach these issues. I believe we can solve this and we can do this well.
Now, my friend asked me to read something. Do you want me to read the whole thing?
Mr. Michael Mantha: No, just the statement from—
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Just the quotation?
Mr. Michael Mantha: Yes.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: “Most people die, not the music still inside them,” is the quote you wanted me to finish off with, and I think it’s a good quote to finish off with. Merci.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): The member from Burlington has two minutes to respond.
Mrs. Jane McKenna: Thank you so much, Speaker. I’d just like to say this today: that it is a fundamental contradiction when we’re saying we’re all for everybody but we’re more for somebody else.
I’m standing here today myself because, at the end of the day, when I listened to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, he echoed absolutely everything that I’ve heard from my son, and I was touched when he spoke. I actually spoke right after he had gotten up and spoken himself, because life is about—I’m with my son, with my husband, and we’re with him every day. The children who don’t have the opportunity to have parents that love them and care for them—but what I’m trying to say is, when I walked even up to the school with my son and they’re calling him “Bubbles” and they’re tripping him, as a parent that’s standing there, how does he get out of bed? I think to myself that I adore this child, but he has had this adversity his whole life with his vision, and yet he gets up every day. There are kids that can’t get up, but every day he gets up, and he walks out. I said, “Mac, let me say something.” And he says, “Mom, please don’t. It makes it 10 times worse.” And he comes home, and his shoulder is bruised, or he’s called “Bubbles” every day of his life. I don’t know how he gets out of bed. I honestly don’t.
But at some point we have to stop and realize it’s for everybody, and my problem with all of this is that it is a fundamental contradiction. My son or any other child being bullied feels exactly like anybody else does, and you can’t say that one person feels more than the other person. You can’t possibly say that, so you can’t segregate separate people. It’s discrimination. You’re saying you’re for everybody but you’re more for somebody else, and there is absolutely no way that I’m going to stand and actually have anything to do with that, because everybody is God’s children, and every child deserves to be not bullied.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Further debate?
Mr. Rod Jackson: It’s a pleasure to stand before my colleagues in the House today to speak to Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act.
First I’d like to talk a little bit about what bullying is and why implementing legislation to keep our children safe in our schools is so important. The Red Cross defines bullying as a method of “misusing power to degrade, humiliate or hurt” somebody. “Bullying is cruel, hurtful behaviour that is not based on discrimination.”
A related concept, harassment, is “discrimination that involves characteristics protected by Canada’s Human Rights Act,” so things like “ethnicity, religion, age, sex, family status, disability and sexual orientation.”
My colleague Mrs. Witmer has also introduced anti-bullying legislation, as we are all aware; more on that later. For now, I’ll read a definition of bullying in the Education Act with the proposed amendments by Mrs. Witmer:
“‘bullying’ means the severe or repeated use by one or more pupils of a written, verbal, electronic or other form of expression, a physical act or gesture or any combination of them if it is directed at another pupil and if it has the effect of or is reasonably intended to have the effect of,
“(a) causing physical or emotional harm to the other pupil or damage to the other pupil’s property,
“(b) placing the pupil in reasonable fear of harm to himself or herself or damage to his or her property,
“(c) creating a hostile environment at school for the other pupil,
“(d) infringing on the legal rights of the other pupil at school, or
“(e) materially and substantially disrupting the education process or the orderly operation of a school;
Ms. Witmer has proposed an amendment to update the definition by including cyberbullying. This can be:
“(a) creating a Web page or a blog in which the creator assumes the identity of another person;
“(b) impersonating another person as the author of posted content or messages; and
“(c) communicating materials to more than one person or posting material on an electronic medium that may be accessed by one or more persons.”
The fact that a child may be subject to any type of bullying or harassment is totally unacceptable. According to dosomething.org, 160,000 kids stay at home for the express purpose of avoiding bullying every single day. I can say that my own children have been subject to this, just by virtue of them being what are called “gingers”—my kids are both redheads—and there’s a day actually set aside to abuse kids with red hair. It’s kind of scary as a parent when you face that down, when you have two that have red hair.
For these reasons, what we do here today—to debate legislation that addresses bullying and protects our children for any and every reason they may be targeted—is of the utmost importance. School must be a place where they can feel safe, learn and ultimately become better people. The thought of them being in an environment where their peers are being broken due to bullying breaks my heart, and it breaks my heart that it happens in any school board for any reason. There’s still a lot of work to be done in our schools to ensure children can feel safe at their school, regardless of whatever legislation we pass. That’s a fact. You can’t legislate everything. It’s certainly a great start, though. For this reason, we need strong, thorough, well-researched anti-bullying legislation that protects every child—full stop—from degrading treatment of any kind at all.
We need to ensure that we create and foster inclusive anti-oppressive environments in our schools. Every child has the right to education and shouldn’t have to feel as though they must stay at home from school to avoid bullying or, worse, make the decision to take their life like young Mr. Hubley did.
Bullying is not a gender, size, sexual orientation or ethnicity issue, it’s an everyone issue. This means everyone. Bullying has a detrimental effect on the victim, on the bully, on their friends, on their family, on the school and on the greater community at large, and on our dignity as human beings and our dignity as active citizens in our own community. All kinds of kids, no matter what, need to be protected—full stop, period.
I’d like to take a minute to discuss what has been happening in this House with the two anti-bullying bills up for debate to stress that bullying legislation is not a political issue, it’s not a partisan issue, it’s not a campaign platform. It’s our job. Protecting our children is our job. Protecting them from harassment, intolerance, intimidation and violence, that is our job. That is what we are hired to do by the constituents we represent here. Anything less and we are failing our children and we are failing our communities.
My colleague Ms. Witmer saw a need and she took action. She started two years ago to do her research in consulting with parents, students and educators to put together a comprehensive bill to better manage bullying and protect our children in our schools.
Bullying affects society in two detrimental ways: through the victim and through the perpetrator. To quote the bill itself, for the victim, “Bullying can leave a harmful and long-lasting mark on its victims,” including “painful emotional and mental scarring and a lifelong struggle with self-esteem. Bullying can therefore impair the ability of a victim to contribute meaningfully to society and to function normally in the victim’s family environment.
“Bullies suffer as well,” especially in the long term. Often, bullying may indicate “deeper psychological and emotional problems. Children who bully more frequently experience psychological problems later in life”—and often become the victims of bullying themselves because of the very bullying they exercised earlier in their life—“such as aggressive tendencies and occasional symptoms of depression” or even learning disabilities.
My colleague Ms. Witmer saw not only the short-term detriment to our children’s immediate safety in our schools but also the long-term effects on our society. Her bill reflects this deep level of understanding and comprehensively protects every child now and into our future.
I most highly appreciate that our colleagues on the other side saw our two years of work here and were inspired to develop their own ad hoc version of an anti-bullying legislation, Bill 13, which we debate today. It was the introduction of Bill 14 that spurred the pre-emptive action with the introduction of their own version of the anti-bullying legislation, Bill 13, which was quickly mocked up and put up for debate.
It’s disappointing to see the political process being used to play games of catch-up instead of collaborating to achieve a common goal, the protection of our children, and that is where I feel our children may be failed. This is why I’m going to ask our Liberal friends to take both bills to committee so their best aspects can be merged. I know that we have heard this from my colleagues previously. However, the response has been a shameful disappointment, with the government stonewalling and toeing their lines. Why, of all issues, should the government use our children for their political agenda, especially when so much time and care was taken to develop Bill 14? No party has a monopoly on compassion for kids. Many of us have our own kids. All of us were kids once, and we all get it: Bullying has no place in our school environment.
From my point of view, these two bills, Bill 13 and Bill 14, are not in competition; they are complementary. The legislation must include:
—strong accountability measures requiring bullying incidents to be reported and investigated and for those stats to be publicly reported;
—clear definitions of bullying;
—early intervention, with awareness training starting in kindergarten;
—a province-wide ministry model for prevention and school board prevention;
—counselling for victim and perpetrator;
—ongoing professional development;
—parent and community consultation;
—publicizing anti-bullying laws.
These are just some of the things that make up the core of Bill 14 and were derived from two years of research and consulting with many stakeholders. This is why merging the bills would create the most effective and comprehensive legislation. We have an opportunity to supplement that incompleteness with another legislation supported by two years of investment.
Now I would like to share a few commendable efforts in bullying awareness and prevention by my local constituents. One is the I Love Me Club. It’s a pleasure to recognize a young constituent, Mackenzie Oliver. Mackenzie is 12 years old and attending elementary school in Barrie. She founded the I Love Me Club, which has taken off and has been receiving wide recognition by a number of groups. It was inspired a few years ago when a few young classmates talked about how fat they thought they were. Mackenzie and her mother realized this wasn’t right and created the “I Love Me” T-shirts for distribution among her friends at her birthday party. Mackenzie says, “I think it matters, because people discriminate and tell other people that there’s something wrong with them. It’s important for people to know they matter in the world and what others say isn’t important at all. If you believe them, you’re going to end up like they say you are, never knowing if you look all right or if your hair looks all right. It really affects your self-esteem if you let other people tell you you’re no good.” Mackenzie started this off on her own, and it has spread to many other cities across the country and across the province. She has been recognized by the Lieutenant Governor for her efforts all on her own. She’s 12 years old.
Another person is Sharron-Ann Reynolds, in my riding. As a councillor, I met her because her son had been cyberbullied, and that cyberbullying manifested itself into essentially one of the worst beatings I’ve seen on YouTube—in a parking lot a block away from my own house. When I saw that happening, I contacted Sharron-Ann and tried to work with her. She created her own organization, called I Am a Smart Kid, to fight cyberbullying—all on her own.
Without the efforts of people like this, and without proper legislation, we’re not going to ever see cyberbullying ended. It doesn’t end with legislation. It ends with awareness and people acting as active citizens—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Thank you. Questions and comments?
Hon. John Gerretsen: It seems to me that whenever I have House duty, this bill is being discussed endlessly.
The first thing that I would ask the people of Ontario to do is to go to the legislative website and read Bill 13 and Bill 14. I would ask them if they can actually see a difference in those two bills. There’s very little difference. We’re all talking about the same thing: bullying.
It’s my understanding that Bill 14 is before the committee right now, the justice and policy committee, or whatever it’s called. We want to get Bill 13 before that committee so that those members can discuss those two bills together and maybe take the best of both and come up with a final bill.
Now, you know, everybody is accusing everybody else of playing games with this, and there have been a lot of games played here and probably on all sides of the House—and I’ll be the first to admit that. But one of the games that the Tories have been playing with this bill—and that’s why it’s been debated here so often—is that whenever they talk about this bill, they make the bells ring for half an hour, wasting half an hour of everybody’s time. That’s why this bill is back here day after day, because every bill has to have so many hours of debate; I’ve forgotten exactly what it is but something like seven or eight hours of debate, etc.
So let’s stop all the foolishness. You’re accusing us of playing games; we’re accusing you of playing games. I’ve looked at both bills; I’ve read both bills. They basically come down to exactly the same thing. Why are you making the bells ring all the time? Why is it that we played along with you guys in order to get Bill 14 before the committee? Play along with us and get Bill 13 there so we can finally come up with a bill that everybody can agree to. We all think it’s a major problem in this province, and we can pass a law to stop bullying of whatever kind altogether. That’s really what this is all about, and let’s all stop playing games.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Questions and comments?
Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: I want to thank very much our member from Barrie for eloquently demonstrating and sharing personal stories from victims who stand behind a bill, Bill 14, that stands up for the rights and the concerns of victims, because our Bill 14 is so comprehensive. It just doesn’t ice over some of the popular issues in schools these days; Bill 14 gets right to the root.
I was taken earlier this morning when a bullied student from York region was referenced, and there’s a quote from this particular student: “For three long years, I waited for an adult to step up to the plate.” Well, ladies and gentlemen, in this historic House we have an opportunity to work together and demonstrate that we can step up to the plate and work together. We need to see some progressive steps taken in terms of amending Bill 13 so that it is a comprehensive approach to dealing with bullying. You know, there are other examples in our province where people are stepping up to the plate, and it’s time we catch up and show that we’re serious about this heart-wrenching issue.
I just read in our clippings a day or two ago about the principal of a particular school that actually mediates. They pull the victim into a room together with the bully, together with at least one of their parents, and collectively as a group they talk through why the bullying happened, how the victim felt and how the bully feels after listening to the victim, and together they come up with a solution. We need to follow that example. There are leaders out in our communities—and again I come back to this quote from our poor student who was bullied in York region. It breaks my heart. We need to listen long and hard. We need to step up to the plate and demonstrate that we know how to work together.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): The member from Peterborough
Mr. Jeff Leal: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I listened intently this morning to the member from Barrie talk about Bill 13 and 14. You know, I can only echo some of the comments that have been made by the Attorney General on this particular thing. I know from first-hand experience—my wife, Karan, happens to be a principal in an elementary school in Peterborough, St. Patrick’s school in Peterborough, and I’ve worked with Catholic trustees. I’ve read the Catholic trustees’ guidelines and have a very close relationship with the Kawartha Pine Ridge board, many principals of that board and certainly trustees of that board. The kind of information I was getting back—when we had our week break and an opportunity to chat with all of them—was that we need to get this process going on. They all recognize that there are some very important and very innovative aspects of Bill 14, presented by the member from Kitchener–Waterloo, and indeed Bill 13, which we’re discussing this morning, a bill that’s been brought forward by the government.
But at the bottom line it’s about children. We can continue with bells and whistles and everything else, but we’ve really forgotten that these two bills are targeted at children, to protect children from bullying—any type of bullying. That’s the premise of the government bill, that’s the premise of the private member’s’ bill, Bill 14. So it’s incumbent upon us all to get a reconciled bill passed by the province of Ontario in order to meet the new school year, which starts in September this year. I think it’s the expectation of people across this province that we all come together as quickly as possible to make sure that a bill is put in place. We all have stories, Mr. Speaker. You have stories from your community about bullying from a wide variety of aspects. We really need to get this done. We could continue with bells and everything, but there’s an expectation: Ontarians want us to get a solid anti-bullying bill in place.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Questions and comments?
Mr. John Yakabuski: It’s my pleasure to address the comments from my colleague from Barrie as well. I appreciate his insight into not only this bill but this issue. We hear comments from across the floor as well on a daily basis chastising this party for its insistence on continuing to debate the bill. What we have on the other side are two-minute snippets from time to time from members of the government giving comments on other people speaking, but we haven’t heard a member of the government debate this bill within the 10- or 20-minute time slots for a couple of weeks now, Speaker.
Our issue is that this is a very important subject. They have completely politicized the subject by, in their opinion, putting more weight on one type of bullying over another type of bullying, absolutely. What we need to do is ensure that there is a belief and a culture within our schools—and indeed, this doesn’t end with schools. That’s not the only thing that is going on in society.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): The Attorney General.
Mr. John Yakabuski: We need to ensure that bullying is as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving is today, Mr. Speaker. It starts right at day one, as we rear our children. It progresses into the school system. What children want to know is that everyone is raised with the understanding and the belief that anyone who bullies is wrong, and anyone who is being bullied is the victim of a wrongdoing. That’s what needs to be the focus in this Legislature.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): The member from Barrie has two minutes.
Mr. Rod Jackson: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just want to revisit a story from my initial remarks. There’s a young boy from Barrie who was beaten quite badly not far from my house in a school parking lot as a result of cyberbullying. The result of this on this young man was that he was unable to go to school. He didn’t feel safe in his own community, and the fact of the matter is that the school was ill-equipped to help him in his situation. Not that there was any lack of will there to do that, but certainly they lacked the knowledge, the training and any sort of legislative infrastructure or mandate to really be able to help this young man. For the past year and a half, he has not been going to school and has only been able to get any of his education in summer school.
The good news is that as a result of that, it spurred on lots of his friends and his family to actually help him out. His mother started a group, as I said: iamasmartkid.org. I’d love it if everyone would check it out and see what it’s doing to help stop cyberbullying in every community across the country. It shows that we need more than just talk. We need people to be active citizens, to contribute to their own communities to get a part of this and not be afraid to speak out about bullying, in whatever form and shape it takes, to take the debate out of here and put it into our communities where it really matters, where people are really listening to what’s going on and actually take action and get teachers and parents and principals and counsellors and people of all sorts who are talking to people to actually help these kids at a core level, where they are going to be able to understand the consequences of being a bully and how you can take care of yourself after having been bullied. That’s what we really need to focus on here, Speaker, and I’d love to see that happen.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Further debate?
Mr. Ted Arnott: Three minutes ago I was asked to participate in this debate and I’m very pleased to have that opportunity to do so and to speak to second reading of Bill 13, An Act to amend the Education Act with respect to bullying and other matters, which was introduced, as we know, by the Minister of Education on November 30.
Interestingly, this debate is also informed by another private member’s bill that was brought forward the very same day, as a matter of fact, by my colleague the member for Kitchener–Waterloo. Her Bill 14 is entitled An Act to designate Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week in Schools and to provide for bullying prevention curricula, policies and administrative accountability in schools.
As has been pointed out during the course of this debate, Mr. Speaker, the bill that was brought forward by the minister—I should say the member for Kitchener–Waterloo; she should be the minister. She served for many years in a very distinguished way as the Minister of Health, the Minister of Education, the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Labour. This private member’s bill that she brought forward was passed by this House on March 29. So we have a private member’s bill that is now before a standing committee in the Legislature and we have a government bill that we are still debating at second reading.
I’ve been informed by the table, Mr. Speaker, that this debate has now gone on for about 15 hours. The government occasionally chastises the opposition in their impatience and in their arrogance, I would say, when they suggest that opposition parties shouldn’t be able to meaningfully debate bills. They suggest at times that we have no right to bring forward the concerns that we hear in our communities, and that shows, unfortunately, a degree of arrogance has begun to characterize this McGuinty Liberal government in this House. We have to point that out.
We also have to point out the fact that, when it comes to bells that are being rung—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Thank you. I believe the Attorney General is carrying on his own debate here when the other member is speaking. I’d appreciate it if he would limit it to the odd comment. Thank you.
Mr. Ted Arnott: Thank you, Speaker. When it comes to ringing bells in this House, it’s something that opposition parties tend to do when they have an issue with the government. Certainly in my time here in this place, when our party served in government, I recall the Liberal opposition constantly ringing bells when they were displeased with certain issues, of course, as well. So it’s not unusual; it’s provided for in the standing orders.
In terms of the debate time, the time that is spent when the bells ring, of course, is added to the debate time. So at any point in time the government could conclude the debate by moving a motion that the question now be put or, as they’ve done in the past in many instances, bring in a time allocation motion, if they really want to end the debate. Of course, we in opposition believe that we should have the opportunity to debate these issues and we continue to assert that right. In fact, it’s our constitutional responsibility to bring forward the views and concerns of the people who bring them to our attention, and it is our responsibility to point out the flaws and drawbacks of government legislation. I think it’s important that people understand that when the government tries to mislead them about what the opposition parties are doing in response to the government’s bills.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): The member knows we don’t use that particular word. Withdraw that.
Mr. Ted Arnott: I withdraw, unequivocally.
Again, looking at Bill 13 here, we look at the preamble that the government wants us to consider. The preamble of the bill reads as follows:
“The people of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly:
“Believe that education plays a critical role in preparing young people to grow up as productive, contributing and constructive citizens in the diverse society of Ontario”—I don’t think anyone would disagree with that;
“Believe that all students should feel safe at school and deserve a positive school climate that is inclusive and accepting, regardless of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status or disability;
“Believe that a healthy, safe and inclusive learning environment where all students feel accepted is a necessary condition for student success;
“Understand that students cannot be expected to reach their full potential in an environment where they feel insecure or intimidated;
“Believe that students need to be equipped with the knowledge, skills, attitude and values to engage the world and others critically, which means developing a critical consciousness that allows them to take action on making their schools and communities more equitable and inclusive for all people, including LGBTTIQ … people;
“Recognize that a whole-school approach is required, and that everyone—government, educators, school staff, parents, students and the wider community—has a role to play in creating a positive school climate and preventing inappropriate behaviour, such as bullying, sexual assault, gender-based violence and incidents based on homophobia;
“Acknowledge that there is a need for stronger action to create a safe and inclusive environment in all schools, and to support all students, including both students who are impacted by and students who have engaged in inappropriate behaviour, to assist them in developing healthy relationships, making good choices, continuing their learning and achieving success.”
We see this preamble. That’s the intention of the government, I guess, in terms of wanting to set the stage for the consideration of the clauses. The various clauses are, of course, laid out in the bill. I would compare this to Bill 14. I think it is appropriate to bring Bill 14 into the context of this debate, because it is something that the Premier has publicly acknowledged. He indicated that there are good points and relevant aspects to the bill that was brought forward by the member for Kitchener–Waterloo.
Her preamble is different. It says the following:
“Bullying, particularly in schools, has become an increasing problem in Canada. Victims of bullying have suffered mental anguish, bodily injury and even death at the hands of their tormentors.
“Bullying can leave a harmful and long-lasting mark on its victims. It can leave children with painful emotional and mental scarring and a lifelong struggle with self-esteem. Bullying can therefore impair the ability of a victim to contribute meaningfully to society and to function normally in the victim’s family environment.
“Bullies suffer as well, since bullying may be indicative of deeper psychological and emotional problems. Children who bully more frequently experience psychological problems later in life, such as aggressive tendencies and occasional symptoms of depression. Childhood bullies often display the same types of behaviour as adults and are found to be more likely to harass co-workers or commit spousal, child or senior abuse. Studies have shown that bullies are far more likely to engage in delinquent behaviour. According to Public Safety Canada, students who engage in bullying are 37 per cent more likely than those who do not to commit offences as adults.
“Bullying also creates a poisoned atmosphere among persons who observe the bullying of others. For example, the occurrence of bullying can intimidate observers, lead observers to excuse, accommodate or even encourage the bully or, worst of all, lead them to try bullying themselves. The negative cost of bullying to society at large is therefore considerable.
“A safe and inclusive learning environment in schools is critical for students to achieve academic success. Parents and students must be confident in knowing that the school environment is free from harassment, violence, intolerance and intimidation, all of which are forms of bullying.
“In December 2009, the Occupational Health and Safety Act was amended to add part III.0.1 to provide protective measures against violence and harassment in the workplace. Such harassment can include bullying. It is appropriate to expand that approach to deal with bullying in schools. Bullying in schools is particularly odious since its victims are children who are often less able to defend themselves than adults are.
“It is appropriate to designate a week to express our collective opposition to bullying and to take measures to raise awareness and to prevent bullying in all of its many forms in the school environment.”
Again, I have expressed support for Bill 14 in this Legislature. I did so on the 29th of March. Again I would remind you, Mr. Speaker, that Bill 14 is now before the standing committee and could be considered for further discussion. I gather and I understand that the government would like to see passage of its Bill 13, but again I would say to you that we have an obligation in opposition to debate these issues and bring forward our concerns. But I think at the appropriate time there will be a conclusion to this debate, and I would expect and anticipate that the government members will dutifully come in and vote for their bill. I’m not sure what the New Democrats will do. They may come in and vote; they may come in and not vote. We’ll see what process will unfold. In all likelihood there will be a resolution, and in all likelihood, I would anticipate that there will be further discussion on this issue.
Again, I would commend the members to consider the fact that Bill 14 is a comprehensive approach to this bill that was undertaken by a distinguished member of this Legislature, the member for Kitchener–Waterloo, who served with distinction in cabinet in a number of important, significant responsibilities and has a great deal of expertise in education as a former school board trustee, a former chair of the Waterloo county school board, a member of the Legislature for so many years, a former Minister of Education and former Deputy Premier, and who indeed thoroughly studied this issue for a number of months and brought forward, I think, an excellent bill that, quite frankly, could be passed into law within a few days.
We could turn the argument back on the government and ask them why they’re delaying consideration of Bill 14 in committee. Why is it that they’re not calling Bill 14 to come back into this House to allow for passage today?
We could say that, Mr. Speaker. That would be a similar argument to what the government is saying about us. But I think in the final analysis, I expect that there will be an effort on the part of all sides of the House to ensure that an appropriate approach is taken to this issue to ensure that we take a strong stand against bullying in our schools.
Second reading debate deemed adjourned.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): It being close to 10:15, this House stands recessed until 10:30 this morning.
Mr. Yasir Naqvi: My question is for the Minister of Education. Minister, in November you introduced Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act; and as we know, the MPP for Kitchener–Waterloo also introduced a private member’s bill, Bill 14, on bullying.
Minister, I voted to pass Bill 14 at second reading because I believe that, as an MPP, I have a duty to work across party lines to help kids in our communities. I believe that putting kids first is more important than politics, and that’s why I have been very active in my community with young people, and with other members of this House on this important issue, Speaker. The official opposition has said that they believe in working together, too. Given that, will the minister tell this House and young kids in my community why she hasn’t passed anti-bullying legislation yet?
Hon. Laurel C. Broten: Thank you to the member for Ottawa Centre. Let me recognize and commend the member for being such a strong advocate for anti-bullying initiatives in his community. I know that the member from Ottawa Centre never hesitates to work with people of all political parties for the sake of kids.
There have been many times where this Legislature has come together to help kids. Unfortunately, Bill 13 isn’t one of those times. I have said publicly and repeatedly that I want to incorporate over half of the PC anti-bullying bill, Bill 14, into the Accepting Schools Act to make it the strongest possible piece of anti-bullying legislation to protect our kids. That’s why the Ontario Liberal Party did not play games with the member from Kitchener–Waterloo’s bill. We supported it, because we believe in putting aside partisan politics for the sake of the kids. The PC Party has deliberately and continually stalled Bill 13. That’s why I’m calling on the opposition again to support Bill 13.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Mr. Yasir Naqvi: I appreciate the response of the minister. I agree with the minister that politics should not be a factor when the health and well-being of Ontario kids are at stake. I know the minister believes that, too. That’s why she has worked so hard with the MPP—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Now that’s—I seriously cannot hear.
Ask your question.
Mr. Yasir Naqvi: Thank you, Speaker. I know the minister believes that, too. That’s why she’s worked so hard with the MPP from Kitchener–Waterloo. Unfortunately, the official opposition does not agree. The PC Party has repeatedly said that they want to work with us, but those words do not match their actions, because yesterday they again rang the bells for an hour while we could have been working to help kids. The opposition has chosen—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): First of all, that’s not appropriate and it will stop. Second of all, I’ve asked the member to refrain from heckling.
You will direct your question to government policy, please.
Mr. Yasir Naqvi: Thank you, Speaker. I just want to highlight the fact that children in my community are concerned that this important bill is not getting passed. I want to ask the minister the steps that she’s taking, the efforts she’s making to move this legislation forward.
Hon. Laurel C. Broten: I’m very pleased to speak directly to Bill 13 and the fact that I have provided the opposition with amendments to the Accepting Schools Act, drafted in legislative language, which would include more than one half of the provisions of PC Bill 14.
I did this because I believe that we can only fight bullying in Ontario schools if this House stands together. That’s why I’m so disappointed in the choices of the Progressive Conservative Party. The opposition has stalled and delayed and rung the bells each and every day we have debated Bill 13 in this House. The Leader of the Opposition has been absent without leadership. He hasn’t even stood in this House and debated—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. New question.
Mr. Rick Nicholls: “Petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to amend Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act.
“Whereas Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, by identifying only four specific groups and using primarily homosexual and gender issue bullying examples, provides a narrow focus to the bullying issue; and
“Whereas this should not be a legislation designed to appease a special interest group or address a narrow political agenda; and
“Whereas it has not been proven that the special-status clubs will lead to a more inclusive environment; and
“Whereas the legislation will result in curriculum that may be in conflict with the values of various faith families; and
“Whereas the legislation, as stated by the Minister of Education (Laurel Broten) during her speech at second reading, is intended to ‘change the attitudes of society’ rather than addressing the wrongful actions of the bully; and
“Whereas churches and traditional-principled schools renting publicly funded school facilities would be forced to abide by an undefined ‘provincial code of conduct’ which could be in opposition to their ‘constitutionally protected faith’; and
“Whereas the legislation will interfere with the right of Catholics to create an education environment that is consistent with their faith;
“We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to amend Bill 13 to address these issues:
“Broaden the legislation to uphold the worth of all children who may be bullied for all reasons;
“Send the message that the bully’s actions are wrong for any reason, regardless of why they target the victim;
“Require tenants renting public school facilities to follow federal and provincial laws, rather than an undefined provincial code of conduct;
“Require school boards to respect the federally protected rights of all faith groups, as children from these groups are often bullied by their peers, the community and the governments;
“Remove references to the formation of specific clubs for certain groups (these clubs are not proven to lead to a more equitable environment) and place the emphasis on correcting the wrongful actions of the bullies;
“Include statements protecting the rights of all people, including the religious rights of individuals and groups—a segment of society that is often bullied because of its convictions;
“Ensure accommodation for any child whose parent identifies the curriculum to be in conflict with the values taught at home.”
I affix my signature to this and I present to page Katarina.
Ms. Soo Wong: I have a petition from Scarborough–Agincourt, addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, which states:
“Whereas creating a safe and positive learning environment is an essential part of helping students succeed in school;
“Whereas bullying, homophobia and gender-based violence are unacceptable;
“Whereas we need to do more than just tell bullied kids it gets better—we need to work together to make it better now;
“Whereas the Accepting Schools Act would, if passed, help to end bullying in our schools;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
“That the elected members of all parties help make our schools safer and more inclusive by supporting the Accepting Schools Act.”
I certainly support this petition and affix my signature, and send it with page Sabrina.