We should usenot attackthe Anti-Bullying Act
By Robert White | Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Photo by Vlado.
Instead of protesting Ontario's new Anti-Bullying Act, Christians really need to take a good look at what the legislation says and embrace how it can be used to help them.
Minister of Education Laurel Broten introduced two amendments to the current Education Act into provincial parliament in November 2011: Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act and Bill 14, the Anti-bullying Act.
The gist of Bill 13 is to create a "positive school climate that is inclusive and accepting." Bill 14 expands on it by ensuring parents and students of a "school environment … free from harassment, violence, intolerance and intimidation, all of which are forms of bullying." Each amendment strengthens the steps that can be taken to prevent bullying, as well as intervening with and disciplining bullies.
The Anti-Bullying Act even covers bullies' favorite tactics: waiting until the victim steps off school property and its modern form, cyberbullying. It is designed to prevent "bullying that occurs on a school site or public property within 50 metres of a school site (and) during an activity conducted for a school purpose, through the use of technology provided to pupils by a school or through any technology if it affects the orderly operation of a school."
Despite the positive provisions, Christians have attacked the Anti-Bullying Act.
The key criticismwhich should be aimed at Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Acthas been instead aimed at Bill 14, the Anti-Bullying Act.
As a December 6, 2011 Toronto Star report illustrates: "The Institute for Canadian Values held a news conference … condemning the premier for a section of the new anti-bullying legislation that allows for all publicly funded school boards to 'host gay clubs.'"
The "gay clubs" provision isn't part of the Anti-Bullying Act, but part of the Accepting Schools Act, which states every board shall support pupils who want to establish and lead activities or organizations that promote gender, equality, anti-racism, awareness/understanding/respect for people with disabilities or people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
This isn't splitting hairs. By confusing the two Acts, it hampers the credibility of those with a legitimate concern.
And, yes, the provision for "gay clubs" and the promotion of the LGBT agenda is a concern for many Christians. But the normalization of the gay lifestyle has been part of the Liberal agenda for years and, with continued majority governments, there seems to be little that can be done to stop it.
But there's good news. Religion is also part of the Accepting Schools Act: "All students should feel safe at school and deserve a positive school climate that is inclusive and accepting, regardless of … creed."
Instead of decrying gay clubs, why don't people of faith band together and ask their MPPs for an amendment which includes activities or organizations that promote the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people of all creeds?
With that amendment, we can re-introduce Christian clubs into schools. Clubs which make students aware of the Christian perspective on current issues. Clubs which help students understand the importance of faith in society. Clubs which demonstrate respect for, rather than marginalization of, the Christian point of view.
It may be necessary to create multi-faith clubs where all creeds are respected and understood. But the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada showed how well this could work when it banded together with people of Jewish and Muslim faiths during the same-sex marriage debates.
The Accepting Schools Act and the Anti-Bullying Act do have areas of concern for Christians. But a careful reading shows there are also areas Christians can use to their advantage.
Let's use these Bills to engender support, rather than foster isolation.
Please see the letter to the editor by Faye Sonier of the EFC in our Letters to the Editor section for some qualifications to this column.