On behalf of The Bridge, we would like to congratulate the provincial government for the recent passing of Bill 13 and Bill 14 in the provincial legislature.
Bill 13 and Bill 14, also known as the Accepting Schools Act and Anti-Bullying Act, can only bring positive change into our school system.
For the first time in the Province of Ontario, the definition of bullying has been changed to include protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirited, intersex, queer and questioning people. All children should feel safe at school regardless of personal differences, including sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
By insisting schools allow support and peer groups to be formed by students to promote safe and inclusive learning environments and protecting the right to call such organizations gay-straight alliances, Bill 13 opens up room for school-wide discussions and a chance for students to engage peacefully with others who may be different from themselves.
A number of recent suicides and suicide attempts by young people have been linked to bullying in schools and specifically to harassment about sexual orientation and gender expression within schools. Therefore, the bills are a valuable step toward protecting and helping all young people in our communities.
Moreover, by proclaiming the third week in November Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week, the provincial government brings more awareness to communities about the needs of all students, thus allowing for a more inclusive and accepting environment.
Schools are being required to create bullying prevention and intervention plans that will involve the efforts of everyone within the school system, including the Ministry of Education, school boards, principals, staff, parents, volunteers and, of course, the students.
The goal is to allow us to really see and understand the experience of others, fostering an inclusive community within schools and within our city.
It will take time. Bullying will not stop in a day, but maybe we will see a society where people are not living in fear of being fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes or otherwise ostracised due to their differences.
Ashley Dawn and JoAnne Dubois