TORONTO, Ontario, May 15, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Leaders of Ontario’s 250,000 Orthodox Christians took aim at bullying in the province’s schools on Monday – starting with the government’s proposed Bill 13, the Accepting School Act.
A clergy delegation appeared as witnesses before the Standing Committee on Social Policy at Queen’s Park, charging that the government’s anti-bullying legislation virtually ignores most bullying victims in schools, while at the same time targeting traditional religious groups for censure.
“Statistics Canada data on bullying and violence indicates that bullying against religious groups is more than twice as common as bullying against self-identified gays and lesbians,” noted Father Geoffrey Korz, Orthodox Dean of Ontario and chief presented to the Queen’s Park committee. He was joined by Father William Makarenko, former Chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, and supported by Father John Koulouras of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto, and Father Alexei Vassiouchkine of the Russian Orthodox Church.
“We must ask, why does Bill 13 make repeated, special mention of LGBT anti-bullying initiatives, when such incidents represent only a fraction of the reality of bullying in Ontario schools?”
Orthodox Christian communities across Ontario draw their members from a wide variety of cultural groups, including Greeks, Russians, Africans, Middle Easterners, Ukrainians, Romanians, and other cultures.
Father Korz noted that schools have already taken their cue from the introduction of Bill 13 and gay activists, with many schools starting pink t-shirt days, gay-straight alliance clubs, and poster campaigns designating “gay friendly” classrooms. One provincial elementary school sponsored a cross-dressing day to oppose bullying against students who are confused about their gender.
The effects of the proposed bill are already being felt, he said, putting a spotlight on those who do not subscribe to their views, and undermining teachings from home, church, mosque, synagogue or temple that might teach something different about how people traditionally understand sexual identity.
The proposed legislation outlines specific consequences for those who voice disagreement with gay lifestyles. Some curriculum resources, including Hamilton and Toronto public boards, describe traditional Christians and other faith groups as “homophobic” and “bigoted”.
“Bill 13 suggests that the views of one culture - a tiny, urban, liberal, white, elite group - are somehow entitled to trump the views and faith of almost every other faith and culture that make up our province,” he said. “As parents, it is truly frightening to imagine that our tax-funded schools would provide a forum in which the teachings of traditional faiths are undermined, and faith-based efforts to counsel our young faithful are contradicted in a public school by staff or guest speakers.”
The presentation noted a recent incident at a Dundas highschool, where a speaker identified as a lesbian rabbi was brought in by school staff. The speaker described the Old Testament of the Bible – the Scripture sacred to Christians and Jews – as an outdated, absurd document, and told students not to accept the beliefs of anyone who would follow it.
“Bill 13 emboldens this kind of anti-religious attack,” Father Korz added in the address to MPPs from all parties. “Any anti-bullying bill passed by the Legislature must not give special rights to one group ahead of any other, lest these small references be used as a hammer against people of faith.”
MPPs from both the governing Liberals and the opposition PCs addressed the delegation following the hearings. Mississauga Liberal MPP Dipika Damerla noted that the Queen’s Park committee needed to hear from a delegation arguing for protection of religious freedom.
Opposition PC Education Critic Lisa MacLeod requested the full text of studies quoted by the delegation, along with a list of talking points circulated in teacher training in Hamilton-Wentworth, designed to provide teaching staff with talking points to shut down parents in their schools who raise concerns about the new LGBT initiatives.