OTTAWA – This morning, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s (EFC) Don Hutchinson, vice-president and general legal counsel, will appear before the Standing Committee on Social Policy hearing of the Ontario Legislature in Ottawa. The Committee is hearing from members of the public on Bills 13 and 14, which are proposed school anti-bullying laws.
“The EFC, in previous submissions to the Ontario Legislature, has made it clear that we support initiatives that seek to reduce rates of bullying in Ontario schools and that are in the best interests of all children,” explains Hutchinson. “Bill 13, as currently written, is not that initiative. The bill is deeply flawed. Bill 14, the Anti-Bullying Act, is preferable.”
“However, in our submissions before the Committee this morning, we are focussing on two issues: how the term ‘homophobe’ has been misused to label and ostracize many who have expressed concern about Bill 13 and how junk statistics or American statistics have been used in an effort to inform Ontario legislation,” continues Hutchinson.
“It has reached the point where journalists calling our office seeking comment on Bill 13 relate that it is near impossible to find anyone to offer a critique of the bill as potential interviewees are afraid of being labelled ‘homophobes’,” explains EFC Legal Counsel Faye Sonier. “The fact that some citizens are concerned about the Act’s flawed definition of “bullying”, or that the bill focuses on selected forms of bullying over others, or that it doesn’t properly recognize denominational school rights does not render a person a ‘homophobe’. Leave that term for extremists who act in hateful ways, and not toss it around recklessly any time a person does not endorse a policy initiative that in some way relates to LGBT issues.”
“The word “homophobia,” while not yet defined in Canadian law, is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “an extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people,” explains Hutchinson. “Evangelicals do not have a fear or irrational aversion toward gays and lesbians. We do, at times, find ourselves in disagreement with the public policy positions expressed by activists from the gay community; as they at times disagree with ours.”
“This label has become the contemporary slur intended to silence the voices of those in our free and democratic society who might disagree with the public policy agenda of a select group of activists. This slur is intended as an insult directed at the very nature and character of the person or organization that dares to disagree. It has no place in public discourse, dialogue or debate and certainly no place in the legislatures, public squares or public schools of our province or our nation,” concludes Hutchinson.
“The Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed on more than one occasion that the religiously informed are not to be placed at public disadvantage or disqualified from engaging in public policy debate,” explains Sonier. “Evangelicals, or individuals from any background for that matter, should be able to peacefully participate in the democratic process without being caricatured or ostracized.”
A copy of our submission may be found here.
Don Hutchinson will appear before the hearing at 9.15 am on May 22, 2012 and he and Faye Sonier will be available for interviews throughout the day.
The hearing will be held at Ottawa Marriott Hotel, Victoria North Ballroom (2nd Floor) at 100 Kent St.
For more information or an interview contact:
Rick Hiemstra, Director of Media Relations
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada