Close to 2,000 protesters gathered outside Queen's Park to protest the Ontario Liberal government's anti-bullying legislation, Bill 13. Photo by Evan Boudreau

Queen's Park protesters oppose Bill 13

  • April 2, 2012

The Ontario Liberal government's anti-bullying legislation, Bill 13, is more about social ideology than bullying, some 2,000 protesters were told outside Queen's Park on March 29.

"Bill 13 ignores the number one cause of bullying — body shape and image," said Jack Fonseca of Campaign Life Catholics.

"Dalton McGuinty's ignoring of the number one cause of bullying is proof that this (legislation) is not about bullying. This bill was not written by people who want to reduce bullying. It was written by people who want to change social views about human sexuality.

"Where does Dalton think we are, the Soviet Union? This is Canada for goodness sake."

The large crowd was protesting the proposed Safe Schools Act, Bill 13, which they oppose because it would require the establishment of clubs called Gay-Straight Alliances if requested by students. Bill 13 and Bill 14, a private member's anti-bullying bill, are up for debate in the Ontario legislature.

The Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association rejected gay-straight alliances for Catholic schools in a January document called Respecting Differences. That anti-bullying document affirmed that all school clubs and activities must be "respectful and consistent with Catholic teaching."

Several religious and parent groups were represented at the Queen's Park protest.

"The premier has become the bully of the province," said Charles McVety, Canada Christian College president. "We need anti-bullying legislation but the premier has chosen to make this a political issue and that is a violation of the intention of this bill."

In addition to opposing gay-straight alliances, McVety said Bill 13 trespasses on freedom of conscience, freedom of parenting and freedom of religion. He also objected to a provision of the bill that he said would compromise the religious freedom of groups that rent school property for after-hours religious purposes.

"This legistation is going to require that anyone who rents a school teach this same material," said McVety. "That again is a violation of our freedom of religion and it is a violation of our ability to parent our own children."

Speakers were unanimous in their support of anti-bullying legislation to protect vulnerable students. But they oppose sections of Bill 13 that they believe are as much about social engineering as anti-bullying.

The protest drew a counter-protest by about 40 supporters of Bill 13. They chanted slogans such as: "Yes on 13, no on hate"; "Pay your own way"; and "teach to love, not to discriminate."

As a publicly funded organization, Catholic schools should honour the rights and freedoms of students, said Christin Milloy.

"I respect religious expression and the rights of religious expression, but students have a right to free association and freedom of expression as well," said Milloy. "Catholic schools in Ontario are publicly funded so it is not okay to discriminate by blocking GSAs from forming."

Milloy disagreed that Bill 13 infringed parent rights by forcing the formation of GSAs.

"There is a misconception about this bill that it forces every school to start a GSA. That's actually not true," she said. "It is only if students want to form one that the schools are not allowed to block them from doing it."

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