WINNIPEG, September 13, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Official Opposition in the Manitoba government is calling for clarifying amendments and a judicial review of the province's contentious anti-bullying bill before it comes to a vote.
“It should be referred to the Manitoba Court of Appeal for their opinion, so we don’t have it tied up in costly litigation,” said Progressive Conservative education critic Kelvin Goertzen Thursday.
Earlier this year Vic Toews, the federal Minister of Public Safety, Regional Minister for Manitoba and Member of Parliament for Provencher, said he believed the Manitoba NDP government's proposed anti-bullying law, Bill 18, which would force all schools in the province to accommodate homosexual student clubs, would violate Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms and could be challenged as unconstitutional.
“Recently there has been a significant amount of discussion surrounding Provincial Bill 18 and its implications for education and religious freedom,” Toews told LifeSiteNews.com in March. “While this is exclusively a provincial matter and therefore I cannot take any legislative or other official action in respect to provincial legislation, I certainly do not support Bill 18.”
“In particular, the application of some of its provisions involves an unconstitutional infringement upon the freedom of religion” Toews said.
“If the provincial legislature does not amend Bill 18 to address concerns of faith-based organizations, schools and communities, the only remedy may be an application to the courts to decide if the legislation is compliant with Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Toews concluded.
Goertzen also demanded that an amendment to the legislation must be a clarification of Bill 18's vague definition of bullying, which includes any behaviour that causes “fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress, or other forms of harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem, reputation, or property.”
Goertzen's amendment proposal would define bullying as behaviour that “places a person in actual or reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or damage to his or her property.”
Opposition Leader Brian Pallister said that by including “hurt feelings,” teachers and school staff could be judged as bullies for simply carrying out their duties.
He suggested the possibility that a student whose “feelings have been hurt” by a teacher could initiate a false accusation in revenge.
“This bill is dangerous, if not amended, because what it may well do is exacerbate the already real circumstance within our schools that bullies will…lash back at a teacher, staff member, another student, and they will make accusations as a way of defending themselves,” Pallister told Sun News.
“With the definition of bullying being so broad it might exacerbate that already existing problem,” Pallister said.
Other amendments proposed by the Tories would exempt religious teachings in independent faith-based schools; require parental notification if their children are involved in bullying either as instigator or victim and whether or not any physical harm was done; and would expand the scope of diversity groups that schools must accommodate to include students who wish to form clubs based on such things as ethnicity or religion,” he said.