CCRL Executive Director Joanne McGarry

As is, Bill 13 is ripe for lengthy legal challenge

By 
  • February 1, 2012

OTTAWA - The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has warned Ontario legislators that passage of anti-bullying Bill 13 as is could result in years of tax-funded litigation.

“Before overriding the choices parents make in education, legislators are cautioned that this is not a right to be overridden casually,” write EFC legal counsel Faye Sonier and Don Hutchinson in an open letter sent to Ontario MPPs Jan. 25. “There is an obvious constitutional violation in forcing religiously based schools to establish clubs not endorsed by the faith community, parents or students, or to implement curriculum that disrespects their beliefs.”

The EFC — the umbrella organization for more than three-million evangelical Christians — echoes the Catholic Civil Rights League’s warning in mid-December of legal challenges if Bill 13 is not adjusted to accommodate Catholic schools’ constitutional guarantees. The EFC frequently intervenes in religious freedom cases before the courts, as does the League.

“As you can see, we share many areas of concern with the EFC,” said League executive director Joanne McGarry. “In particular, we say that in its insistence on the fair and equitable treatment of all persons, Catholic teaching provides an excellent framework for anti-bullying programs and that it is not right to single out one particular form of bullying as being more serious than others.

“We don’t believe it is necessary to introduce the language of the ‘gay rights agenda’ in order to give teachers the tools they need to combat bullying.”

The League pointed out Bill 13’s preamble accepts “the disputed notion of ‘gender’ as a social construct” and uses the LGBTTIQ acronym (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, two-spirited, intersexed, queer and questioning).

“Forcing a student-led club on these themes on Catholic boards, in a manner implying approval of the subject matter, would be an affront to Church teaching and a subversion or infringement upon the denominational guarantees established in the constitution with respect to Catholic schools in Ontario,” the League said.

The EFC points out that not only Christian groups are objecting to Bill 13, but also Jewish and Muslim groups.  

“Ontario is a diverse province, and each citizen, and identifiable minorities that have suffered discrimination and bullying themselves, deserves to have their concerns heard and addressed by elected officials.”

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