(Toronto, May 24, 2012) Last week, Martin Cohn wrote in the Toronto Star that the inclusion of GSA clubs in Bill 13 was the wedge issue preventing the Liberals and Conservatives from merging bills 13 and 14 into one anti-bullying bill. If only it were that simple. In fact, during four days of public hearings to the Social Policy Committee at the Ontario Legislature in the last two weeks, opposed individuals outlined four objections to the bill—the equity curriculum, the sexual education curriculum, GSAs, and ambiguous legal language--and each issue is separate from the others. Given the popular opposition to so many parts of bill 13, frustrated parents are begging the government to make PC bill 14, a bill two years in the making, the basis of the new anti-bullying bill.
As public-school supporter Yvonne Haley said: “I haven’t heard a single criticism of Bill 14. Why don’t we take bill 14 and make it the basis of a “Respectful Schools Act?”
Liberal MPPs on the Social Policy Committee attempted to discredit presenters who voiced concerns about potential changes to the sexual education curriculum by questioning them where bill 13 discusses sexual education. By the last days of presentations knowledgable presenters such as Catholic Trustee John Del Grande had given ample evidence of the bill’s intent to affect curriculum.
Cohn took shots at the religious background of some of the presenters, presenting them as some type of cultish freaks.
Soon, mere partisanship degenerated into faith-based folly. And fringe fundamentalism, like fringe politics, brings out the worst in both politicians and preachers.
This week, a Queen’s Park committee room became a gathering place for self-styled religious leaders who have railed against GSAs as nests of iniquity. I guess they don’t watch Glee on TV.
The religious leaders speaking were for the most part neither fundamentalists nor “self-styled” leaders. The priests of the Eastern Orthodox Christian orders, like other Christian religious orders elect their leaders. Their congregations in Ontario comprise a quarter million people - hardly a religious fringe group.
Neither Cohn nor Liberal MPPs are openly acknowledging how broad-based opposition to the bill's social engineering is. The majority of speakers were not religious leaders but ordinary parents who fear increased sexualization in the curriculum, polarization of social dynamics as a result of school clubs, the undermining of traditional sexual morality at school, and reverse discrimination levelled at students, teachers, and administrators who criticise homosexual sexual behavior on moral grounds. Just four presentations were by people who mentioned being priests or pastors, while twenty-three were from parents or parent groups. Presenters included representatives from Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and traditional Chinese backgrounds.
One parent, Jason Golloher, said he was a long-standing Liberal voter and member of the public school system. He spoke quite openly about the fact that many people he knew were prepared to withdraw their children from the Ontario school system if bill 13 passes, even if it meant that they had to move out of province.
Besides Golloher, spokespeople for numerous anti-bullying groups stated their preference for Bill 14. These activists were uncomfortable with a bill that privileges one special interest group over others. Some had children who had experienced bullying because of disability and they failed to see how bill 13, and particularly social clubs, would address the bullying their children experienced. They prefer bill 14 because it includes all students. The twelve-year old sister of one child bullied because of his disability pleaded that bill 14 be passed to help people like her brother.
Of the different groups presenting to the social policy committee between May 7-15, 28 were strongly against bill 13, 15 were in favor, and one had strong preferences for parts of both 13 and 14 (Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario).