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February 7, 2012

A letter from the Vaad Harabonim of Toronto:

We write this letter regarding Bill 13 currently before the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. 

We wholeheartedly support effective initiatives to protect children in Ontario schools and firmly believe that the time to rid our educational institutions of all and any acts of intimidation and bullying is long overdue.  As such we commend the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for turning its attention towards improving the educational environment of our province’s students. 

We firmly believe that bullying of any sort must be condemned, and any reasonable measures must be invoked to ensure a safe and secure environment for all students including victims, allies, bystander, and perpetrators of bullying.

However, we believe that an unfortunate byproduct of Bill 13 in its present form will be to undermine core values of the citizens of Ontario.  We see the Bill’s attempt to require schools to “support students who establish and lead activities or organizations that promote the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including organizations with the name gay-straight alliance or another name” as unnecessarily deviating from the Bill’s core purpose.  We fear that this provision will ultimately diminish the Bill’s efficacy and hurt this province’s children. 

It is our strong belief that the elimination of all and any bullying should be achieved by focusing on teaching a child to afford all people with dignity and respect regardless of what makes them different from him or herself.  To mandate understanding of sexual orientation and gender identities is to focus on what differentiates Ontarians and not the transcendent human dignity and decency that unite us.  We would seek to educate the children of Ontario in looking at one another without reference to sexual orientation rather than emphasizing distinctions among the students in our schools.  We fear that this provision would make Ontario’s children pawns in the continuing politicization of sexuality within our society.

Let us be clear.  As spiritual leaders within the Jewish community, we forcefully condemn the abuse of any individual - regardless of their particular sexual desires - and we advocate for appropriate, and truly effective steps to ensure that all forms of bullying are eliminated from all our province’s schools and other public institutions.

We pray for a society in which every child may study without fear and may look upon his or her fellow students with love, dignity and respect.


רב חיים שטראוכלר