OTTAWA, Ontario, January 31, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) has come out strongly against Premier McGuinty’s Bill 13, The Accepting Schools Act, which they say gives “special status” to certain groups at the expense of other groups. The EFC has called for extensive amendments to the bill.
Bill 13, introduced by McGuinty’s provincial government on November 30, 2011, is now on its second reading. It states that “all students should feel safe at school and deserve a positive school climate that is inclusive and accepting, regardless of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status or disability.”
“This is true,” states the EFC’s January 24th open letter to the Members of the Ontario Legislature: “However,” they say, “it then proceeds to identify four groups that will receive special status: clubs that promote gender equity; anti-racism; raise awareness for people with disabilities and gay-straight alliances.”
“Rather than permitting students to learn about their differences and recognize their commonalities in equity clubs, this Bill specifically sets out to isolate students into issue-specific groups,” the EFC argued.
“Attempting to address an issue as complex as bullying by legislative force is debatable,” they say, adding that 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.”
Faye Sonier, EFC Legal Counsel, in a media release last Wednesday called the bill “problematic from a legal perspective as well as unnecessarily broad, rigid and inflexible.” She said that unless the bill is amended, the EFC predicts that the bill will have “years of expensive, tax-payer funded litigation ahead of it.”
“For a short bill, its impact and reach are shockingly broad,” she said.
The EFC suggested that the criticism of Bill 13 by many Ontarians, including members of the Jewish, Muslim, Evangelical Christian and Catholic communities, should give its advocates “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,” said the EFC in a media release.
The EFC in their open letter agreed with Tory MPP Randy Hillier’s critique of Bill 13 earlier this month when he argued that the bill would actually “exacerbate both the frequency and the injurious harm of bullying,” because, by highlighting differences between students rather than minimizing them, the bill would end up painting what he called a “bull’s eye or target” on the backs of bullied students.
With similar logic, the EFC argued that the government’s equity strategy “may in fact increase the frequency of bullying in Ontario by isolating and segregating students – sending them to separate corners, as it were.”
The EFC believes that much more is required to deal with issues of equity respect than legislating specialized clubs into existence. “The remedy for bullying in schools is not gay-straight alliance clubs, but rather proper character formation,” they said.
The EFC is urging the members of the Ontario Legislature to “make necessary amendments to the Bill immediately.” They say they would like to see a more “democratic and inclusive solution” pursued in the bill’s crafting where the conversation involves “representatives from a number of cultural, religious and other identifiable groups.”
Read EFC’s complete open letter to the Members of the Ontario Legislature here.