Bill 18 and a Response to Bullying in Manitoba's Schools
Bill 18 is a government bill introduced by Minister of Education Nancy Allan. Its full name is Bill 18, The Public Schools Amendment Act (Safe and Inclusive Schools). According to the explanatory note, it seeks to amend The Public Schools Act in order to reflect the realities of bullying and respect for human diversity.
The Bill addresses four issues in particular: it defines bullying; it requires schools to develop “respect for human diversity” policies which include accommodation of Gay-Straight Alliance clubs; it amends the pre-existing reporting requirements for witnessed acts of bullying or “unacceptable conduct;” and it requires boards to expand and develop their policies on social media and internet use.
Minister Allan announced that this legislation would be introduced on December 4, 2012. The bill was included in an announcement about a broader provincial anti-bullying action plan.
In the name of diversity and respect for others, Bill 18 proposes that the Government of Manitoba enforce select perspectives and belief systems, seeking to render the school system increasingly homogenous, rather than encouraging proper respect for each Manitoban child and the unique cultural and religiously informed perspective and up-bringing chosen for them by their parents.
Since Bill 18 was introduced, it has been criticized by many Manitobans, including members of the Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Coptic, Evangelical Christian and Catholic communities. This should give reason to pause. Manitoba 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 their elected officials. To attempt to force beliefs upon one group or any group is contrary to the very spirit of pluralism and multiculturalism.
A more democratic and inclusive solution, one that invites conversation with representatives from a number of cultural, religious and other identifiable groups, should be pursued.
Bill 18, the Safe and Inclusive Schools Act
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