Ontario Anti-Bullying Bills
Bills 13 and 14
The Sixty-Second Summary
Bill 13, the Liberal Accepting Schools Act, is an anti-bullying bill in the Ontario Parliament that mandates an equity policy whose equity curriculum has been controversial where it has been introduced because of the fluid notion of gender it introduces to children of young ages. It also mandates that activist clubs called GSAs be allowed in Catholic schools, which have argued that this violates their rights to operate according to the Catholic faith. Bill 14 (now bill 80), also currently in Parliament, is a better bill because it focuses on teaching that bullying of anyone is wrong and does not mandate an equity policy.
What's wrong with bill 13:
Teaching Kids Gender Is Not Connected to Anatomy
The equity curriculum in section 2 of Bill 13 promotes the acceptance of the teaching that gender is socially constructed. Bill 13 uses in its preamble the acronym LGBTTIQ to describe variants of sexual orientation (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, two-spirited, intersexed, queer and questioning). In doing so the province is pushing kids toward a type of social engineering that the ethical codes of most of the major world religions oppose. Since these theories are relatively recent in origin, and the social consequences of their adoption not well studied, the Catholic Civil Rights League has said it is incautious to incorporate them into law. Their value in addressing the problem of bullying is also not demonstrated.
Forcing Catholic Schools to Allow Student-Led Clubs of Type Bishops Oppose
(Toronto, May 27) The Minister of Education announced on Friday, May 24, that an amendment is expected to Bill 13 to require that anti-bullying clubs in schools be of the gay-straight alliance format. Negotiations with the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association (OCSTA) last April yielded an agreement that Catholic schools would establish single-issue anti-bullying clubs. Negotiations began with the government on what these clubs would look like in Catholic schools. Then in December, 2011 the government proposed a law called Bill 13 that would require schools to give permission for GSAs or similar clubs with another name. Catholic groups, including Parents as First Educators, voiced worries that clubs in Catholic schools should not be activist clubs like GSAs because they entrust impressionable youth to peers in matters of counselling on the tender subject of gender identity. Parents stated that their parental rights should be respected to have competent adult supervision exercised over their children in school activities.
An OCSTA document called "Respecting Difference" was released in February that established guidelines for the clubs. "Respecting Difference" stated that clubs could take input from students on topics for discussion but that they must be monitored and guided by adults versed in Catholic moral tradition, and a few more practical details on the clubs were given in a later clarification document. For all intents and purposes the matter appeared to be settled, but nagging doubts remained since the government never officially accepted the document and threats about imposing student-led clubs in Catholic schools still continued to be heard from the Minister of Education, raising suspicions that the Catholic Trustees' definition of student-led was not quite what the Ministry wanted.
During the recent hearings on bills 13 and 14 by the Ontario Legislature's Social Policy Committee, student activist groups raised a hue and cry about the fact that they did not want adults to be able to name their clubs. The amendment is expected to strike the possibility of other names besides "gay-straight alliances" for the clubs. The Archdiocese of Toronto released a statement on May 22 to the social policy committee stating that the church cannot support a bill that seeks to impose GSAs on Catholic schools.
The bishops have opposed student-led GSAs in Catholic schools because
1) they reinforce the early self-identification of students as gay. In a letter from January 20, 2010, the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario said that GSAs are wrong for Catholic schools for this reason. Parents may understandably oppose this message being delivered to their children at school.
2) they advocate peer counselling. If parents do not want their authority over their children transferred to their children's peers this wish must be respected. Otherwise it is a violation of their parental rights, according to the Catholic Civil Rights League.
See our FAQ on Bill 13.
PARENTS OPPOSE BILL 13 AT LEGISLATURE HEARINGS Read more
Read transcripts of presentations to Social Policy Committee here
Trustees' Clarification Document Blindsides Parents at Committee Hearings
(Toronto, June 1) Several lay Catholics who spoke at a public hearing on Bill 13 on Ottawa found themselves blindsided when MPPs cited a clarification document written by the Ontario Catholic Trustees Association, saying that it supported the establishment of GSAs.
OCSTA president Marino Gazzola, in an email interview with journalist Deborah Gyapong, clarified the intentions behind the document.
"We in fact take issue with the selection of GSAs as the sole example of an anti-bullying group presented in this legislation," he stressed.
The Ontario bishops were not consulted in the clarification.
Various groups have warned Bill 13 as is could violate the constitutionally-protected rights for separate Catholic schools, religious freedom and freedom-of-expression rights protected in the Charter, and parents' prior rights to oversee their children's education.
"We have voiced our concerns regarding Bill 13," said Gazzola. "As the legislation was previously written, Catholic schools had the option of providing groups that reflect our values and respect our denominational rights. In light of the recent proposed amendment to Bill 13 announced by Education Minister Laurel Broten, that has now changed and we are reviewing our options."
If the government tries to make a direct attack on parental authority, as they appear to be doing, it will eventually backfire," said Teresa Pierre, director of Parents As First Educators. "You can't attack the heart of the parent-child bond and survive at the polls."
"It's a clarification that muddies things," said Bernard Couture, an Ottawa father whose children attend the French Catholic schools, and who presented a brief to the Social Policy in Ottawa May 22. "However the clarification was carefully worded in a way that was just vague enough so you could also take away from it that while single-issue groups would be allowed, they would still have to promote Catholic teachings." Read more
related, Charles Lewis, Trustees Association Struggles to Respond to Bill 13 Amendment
Bills 13 & 14 In Committee
Bill 13 and Bill 14, (now Bill 80, sponsored on May 2, 2012 by PC MPP and Education Critic Lisa McLeod) are in the social policy committee. The vote on Bill 13 takes place on the morning of Tuesday, June 5 at the Ontario Legislature.
See how your MPP voted at second reading
Track the progress of antibullying bills here and see sidebar, right, under "Legislation".
Text of Amended Bill 13 here
Text of Bill 14 (now bill 80) here
Read more on the two bills
What Can We Do?
Parents should visit call and write to their MPPs. The message to Ontario politicians should be that
1) you don't want the final anti-bullying bill to demand
A) an equity policy B) student-led GSAs.
The phrase student-led is very important. Catholics should demand that the phrase student-led be removed. If the Liberals were to remove that phrase, we would be certain that the clubs would be allowed to conform to the Catholic Trustee document, Respecting Differences. We would be certain that the clubs could be just safe spaces and not activist clubs.
2) You think Bill 14 should be the basis of the bill because it doesn't favor one special interest group.
Even the father of Jamie Hubley, the student who committed suicide in Ottawa last year, thinks that the final bill needs to address the interests of all students, not the interests of any one interest group. See Mr. Hubley's interview with Brian Lilley here.
1) Sign Petition
P.A.F.E. asks you to add your name to the list of thousands of parents who do not support Bill 13.
Sign the online PAFE petition against Bill 13 here.
To print out the petition click here and follow the directions.
Please return petitions to 2336 Bloor Street West Toronto, ON M6S 4Z7.
Contact information for members of the Social Policy Committee
P.A.F.E. submission to the Social Policy Committee
Questions regarding the Social Policy Committee should be addressed to:
3) Write your MPP
A letter should include your residential address, (at least your town) so that your MPP knows you reside in the riding. See PAFE Action Items link - Bill 13 for letter-writing materials in English, Spanish, and Tagalog.
Find contact information for your MPP here
cc the Minister of Education and other officials: contact list
Bullying statistics Read more
The effect of media reporting on suicide Read moreDr. Helene Gutenburg: Anti-bullying programs don't help children problem-solve Read more
Newsweek: The Booming Anti-Bullying Industry Read more
Anti-bullying groups wanted an ombudsperson to handle bullying complaints back in 2010, including the York Region Anti-Bullying Coaltion and the St. Thomas-Elgin Anti-Bullying Coalition. Now those groups are supporting Bill 14 because it contains a mechanism for reporting bullying incidents; see the Hansard entry for April 4.
Cyberbullying: This new type of bullying appears to be beyond the reach of education law (as it occurs largely outside of school, off of school property, and can't be addressed by school policy). Many parents of suicide victims blame cyberbullying as the cause. See http://hisnamewassteven.blogspot.ca/
Groups Release Study Showing Popular Toronto Opposition to Bill 13
(May 17, 2012) The Alliance for Family Values (AFV) held a press conference on March 15 in Markham (Toronto) to release the findings of a survey on Bill 13. The data was collected from the residents of Markham and the Greater Toronto Area community with 2,800 respondents. The AFV is a traditional values coalition composed of mainly Chinese and Punjabi groups and survey respondents included both religious and non-religious individuals.
A report based on the findings was submitted to the Ontario government's Standing Committee on Social Policy on May 7 and is online at the Legislature website.
The results of the survey showed an overwhelming majority of respondents, 90%, do not support Bill 13. Further, the findings concluded the following:
1. Schools should not be educating four year-old children about sexual knowledge;
2. Schools should not be asking Grade 3 children to act out their own pride parade as a strategy to fight bullying;
3. Schools should not establish gay-straight alliances;
4. MPPs should consult with their constituents about the contents of Bill 13;
5. Bill 13 should be put to a referendum.
The Alliance for Family Values supports "the principle of anti-bullying."
The opinion poll was a simple frequency survey. 1,134 from general public sources and 1,673 from Christian and Catholic churches. Respondents were asked six questions, including whether four-year-olds should be educated in sexual knowledge, if Grade 3 students should participate in gay pride parades, and if schools should be allowed to create gay-straight alliances. The alliance claims these are two possible results, should Bill 13 be passed and boards forced to follow the lead of Toronto’s equity and inclusive policy.
The significance of the survey is that it shows deep resistance to the imposition of revised notions of gender among traditional, family centered cultures.
Another study released the same day in the Toronto Star showed 28% of respondents oppose GSAs in Catholic schools. This poll, conducted by Forum Research, was a voice response telephone survey of 1,072 Ontarians. It showed 51 per cent agree students in Catholic schools should be allowed to form gay-straight alliances while 28 per cent disagree.
Both polls covered in yorkregion.com article Sex-Ed Worries Overshadow Bully Debate
GSA Coalition Offers to Help Students Sue Catholic Boards
The lawyer for a group called the GSA Coalition said it will back up any students, with legal help, if necessary, who wish to call their group a Gay Straight Alliance - a club name that Catholic school trustees have already rejected as too political. In response to parents who have claimed their right to direct their children's religious instruction, lawyer Doug Elliot, says that their rights are secondary to the state's authority to direct citizens' education. He said that he thinks the Drummondville decision sets precedent for school boards to control the ethics curriculum in schools. In fact, it does no such thing, especially for Ontario. Ontario education law forbids public schools from teaching indoctrinating ethical/religious material. And the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the supremacy of denominational rights in public Catholic schools is absolute: it is immune from a Charter challenge. This assures that the precepts of faith will govern the curriculum for Catholic schools.
Toronto Rabbis Oppose Bill 13
(Toronto, February 16, 2012) Rabbi Strauchler, of Shaarei Shomayim, a group of 750 modern Orthodox Jewish families located in mid-town Toronto, wrote a letter on February 7, 2012 saying that the rabbinical organization Vaad Harabonim has concerns about Bill 13. His letter states that bullying can be prevented by teaching children to respect everyone's essential human dignity, but not by a strategy such as the Gay Straight Alliance that focuses on and even adds to divisions between students. He expressed concern that the bill would make students "pawns in the continuing politicization of sexuality within our society.” Vaad Harabonim joins Catholic and Christian groups opposing bill 13. Read Rabbi Strauchler's letter
Evangelicals Say Bill 13 on Unstable Legal Ground
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada released an Open Letter to Members of Parliament on January 24, 2012 that states that bill 13 is "problematic from a legal perspective as well as unnecessarily broad, rigid and inflexible. Unless the bill is amended, we predict that the province will have years of expensive, tax-payer funded litigation ahead of it.” It further comments that "Many families feel as though the interests of some groups are being privileged at the expense of others. Families of public, private and religious school students feel as though the proposed policies are being legislated and implemented in a public relations campaign that leaves no room for their input or consideration for their constitutional rights to individual and corporate religious belief." Read the press statement and the open letter.
Agincourt TDSB Trustee candidates Say Parents Unhappy with Bill 13 Read more
MPP Rod Blackwell: Anti-Bullying Bill Must Target All Groups Read moreRead more