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EFC Releases Analysis Critical of Manitoba's Bullying Bill

01 May 2013
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OTTAWA – This morning, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) released its analysis of Manitoba’s anti-bullying legislation, Bill 18, the Safe and Inclusive Schools Act.

“I think we can all agree that no child should be bullied for any reason, at any time,” says EFC Vice-President and General Legal Counsel Don Hutchinson. “Where we disagree is how best to address this problem, and whether Bill 18, in its current form, will help reduce incidences of bullying behaviours. We’re not convinced that this piece of legislation will achieve the goals the Minister of Education hopes it will.”

“In our review of the law, we discovered a number of problems with the Bill,” explains EFC Legal Counsel Faye Sonier. “Some of the language is vague and the Bill employs terms that have not been defined in law, either by the courts or by legislators. The government’s proposal will leave school administrators and parents with the tasks of interpreting the law and sorting out how it should be applied. This scenario leaves no hope that it will be applied consistently across the province.”

“In addition to clarifying the language in the Bill, we also encourage Manitoba’s legislators to adopt an inclusive approach to their anti-bullying measures,” continues Sonier. “While in one section Bill 18 requires ‘due regard’ for the principles of The Human Rights Code, which prohibits discrimination on various grounds, including religion, age, and nationality, in another, it mandates that only a select group of student clubs be supported by school boards. These are clubs related to the promotion of gender equity and antiracism, or awareness for people disabled by barriers or people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.”

“In singling out some groups of students for special status, Bill 18 inherently creates a second class of students – those who are bullied for reasons other than the categories identified in the legislation,” explains Hutchinson. “These measures are divisive rather than inclusive. The clubs mandated by Bill 18 do not reflect the needs of the substantial number of students who are most often bullied. This approach may in fact increase the frequency of bullying by isolating and segregating students – sending them to separate corners, as it were.”

“We have identified over a dozen areas of concern in this short bill,” concludes Hutchinson. “Our concerns, as well as those expressed by representatives from the Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Coptic, and Catholic communities, should give Manitoba’s legislators a reason to pause. Manitoba is a province with a diverse population, and each citizen – and identifiable minorities that have suffered discrimination and bullying themselves – deserves to have their concerns heard and addressed by their elected officials.”

 
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For more information or an interview contact:
Rick Hiemstra, Director of Media Relations
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
(613) 233-9868 x332
[email protected]