In November 2011, the Government of Ontario introduced Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, intended to “help make Ontario schools safe and more accepting places to learn.” The Bill addresses the issue of bullying and proposes several amendments to the Education Act.
Since that time, Bill 13 has been criticized by many Ontarians, including members of the Jewish, Muslim, Evangelical Christian and Catholic communities. This should give reason to pause. 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 their elected officials.
Many families feel as though the interests of some groups are being privileged at the expense of others. Families of public and denominational school students feel as though the proposed policies are being legislated and implemented in a public relations campaign that leaves no room for their input or consideration for their constitutional rights to individual and corporate religious belief.
In the name of diversity and respect for others, Bill 13 proposes that the Government of Ontario enforce select perspectives and belief systems, seeking to render the school system increasingly homogenous, rather than encouraging proper respect for each Ontarian child and their unique cultural and religiously informed perspective and up-bringing.
Bill 13, if passed, will have a significant and negative impact on religious schools and boards and faith informed families. The bill would set a new, lower standard in the province of Ontario, for respect of its citizens’ constitutional rights to religious and associational freedoms and parental authority. It would also likely ensure years of costly, tax-payer funded litigation as parents and schools fight to regain lost ground and reclaim their rights.
The purpose of the bill is laudable. Attempting to address an issue as complex as bullying by legislative force is debatable. And the approach adopted by Bill 13 lacks sensitivity, flexibility, and a full consideration of proper application of the Constitution Act, 1867, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act
- The text of Bill 13 can be found here.
Bill 14, the Anti-Bullying Act
- The text of Bill 14 can be found here.
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