Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Public opinion mixed on anti-bullying bill

  • Print

BILL 18 is driven more by a political agenda to appease a small minority than a way to protect young people from bullies, a legislative committee heard Wednesday night.

It's also so poorly written it allows bullies to target the very people it's intended to protect.

These comments and more were made on the second night of public hearings on the NDP's anti-bullying bill that would require publicly funded schools to accommodate gay-straight alliances or clubs for LGBT students.

"I believe the bill has created more division than it ever hoped to bring together," presenter Ken Haslam said.

Haslam and others said the definition of bullying in Bill 18 is too broad and gives too much power to a small group of students over school administrators, particularly teachers and staff of faith-based schools, in demanding the creation of a gay-straight alliance (GSA).

Presenter Keith Neufeld said Bill 18 is also a double-edged sword as once a GSA is created, it "places children under a banner" and tells bullies who is gay in their school.

David Driedger, board chairman of Steinbach Christian High School, told the all-party committee the bill as written doesn't differentiate between persistent, deliberate bullying and what could be seen as a one-time act or an error in judgment.

"Who will be the one to determine what a child should have known?" he said.

However, high school guidance counsellors Tara Didychuk and LeAnn Froese told the committee Bill 18 is a recognition all students have the right to be safe in school.

"Ultimately, Bill 18 is telling students 'We care,' " Froese said.

Didychuk said students at her school outside of the city -- she declined to say which one -- formed a GSA two years ago with 25 students signing up right away. The group renamed the alliance FREE -- Friends Recognizing Everyone Equally.

"We're just people together," Didychuk said. "Kids are human -- they need to feel safe. If they feel alone and desperate, I don't want them to choose death over life."

Other presenters said Bill 18 is a threat to religious freedom that could result in a court challenge as the requirement for GSAs may conflict with religious beliefs.

"You're passing legislation in an area that's highly dynamic," Wayne Patram said. "I believe the bill can create the foundation. I don't believe it can create the house."

Al Hiebert said Bill 18 as proposed could threaten the province's education system and economy, and GSA's impose an alien-liberal theology of sex on conservative faith-based schools.

"Seven billion of us are here on the planet thanks to our mothers and fathers," he told the committee.

Froese also said Bill 18 reflects the reality students are being sexualized earlier in life due to exposure to the media and are dealing with questions about their own sexuality sooner in life.

She said Bill 18 is not a threat to religious freedom, but an opportunity for faith-based schools to value all students in a modern age.

The public hearing continues to Sept. 11 and through to Sept. 14, if needed.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 5, 2013 A4

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Cheapskate: Preparing for Boxing Day

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Geese fly in the morning light over Selkirk Ave Wednesday morning- Day 22– June 13, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A Great Horned Owl that was caught up in some soccer nets in Shamrock Park in Southdale on November 16th was rehabilitated and returned to the the city park behind Shamrock School and released this afternoon. Sequence of the release. December 4, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will you be hitting up any Boxing Day sales?

View Results

Ads by Google