Thursday, 21 March 2013

The Need for Bill 18

Note: The image below is very disturbing, as is the reality of anti-gay bullying in Manitoba and Canada. Incorporation of an image with an all too real characterization of the reality of homophobic bullying should not be taken as legitimizing the hateful speech and barbarism behind it.

Bullying, justified by religious bigotry or not, is
an ugly reality for many Manitobans.

Image Source:
Youth Guide
Bullying is a major problem in Manitoba and Canada at large. A minimum of one in three adolescents has been bullied and Canada has the 13th worst bullying rates in a survey of 35 nations. Furthermore, LGTBQ youth face a bullying rate thrice as high as non-LGTBQ youth. Bullying is also shifting into the virtual sphere, with research finding an increasing incidence of suicides due to cyberbullying.

This growing problem had to be addressed and it was only a matter of time before crises spurred political leaders to Canada.

Canada hit such a turning point with the suicide of Jamie Hubley. The son of an Ottawa city councillor committed suicide after harsh, anti-gay bullying which featured a considerable amount of cyberbullying.

Rick Mercer himself chimed in on the matter.

We hit yet another turning point, as a country, with the suicide of Amanda Todd, who suffered extensive cyber-bullying. 

So last fall Federal New Democrat Danny Morin introduced a Private Member's Bill to establish a national anti-bullying strategy. While the NDP, Liberals, Green, and Independent MP voted in favour of the bill alongside five government backbenchers, the rest of the Harper CONs crushed the bill.

Tragic suicide of BC teenager Amanda Todd
led to uproar over bullying in Canada.

Image Source: Global TV BC/Facebook
The Provinces were hence left to deal with this legislative gap. The Manitoba Government moved to solve this with Provincial Bill 18.

Bill 18, fully named as The Public Schools Amendment Act (Safe and Inclusive Schools), sets out a variety of protocols for school boards. School staff are required to report bullying to the principal while school boards are required to expand policies related to appropriate Internet use and human diversity. There's a requirement for accommodation of student organizations like Gay-Straight Alliances.

Student activities and organizations

41(1.8) A respect from human diversity policy must accommodate pupils who want to establish and lead activities and organizations that

(a) promote
(i) gender equity,
(ii) antiracism,
(iii) the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people who are disabled by barriers, or
(iv) the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people of all sexual orientations and gender identities; and

(b) use the name "gay-straight alliance" or any other name that is consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive and accepting of all pupils.

("Bill 18: The Public Schools Amendment Act (Safe and Inclusive Schools)". 2nd session, 4040 Legislature of Manitoba)

Manitoba CON leader Brian Pallister has tried to characterize that passage as not really important or of minor importance compared to "helping all students". In reality the obstruction of Gay-Straight Alliances by certain school administrators is a serious issue that needs a serious solution. You see, Gay-Straight Alliances can save lives:

Results from a groundbreaking American study on gay-straight alliances (GSAs) have confirmed what Canadian students fighting for GSAs have been saying all along: clubs that provide support for queer youth help prevent depression, victimization, substance abuse and suicide.

A school with a GSA has a lower drop-out rate and produces students who are more likely to attend college or university. GSAs also help educate students and community members by spreading a message of love, acceptance and equality.

These are just some of the findings in High School Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) and Young Adult Well-Being: An Examination of GSA Presence, Participation, and Perceived Effectiveness, a new study by Caitlin Ryan, a San Francisco State University faculty member and director of the Family Acceptance Project, a research group that provides support for families with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children. Ryan is a clinical social worker who has worked on queer health and mental health since the 1970s. 
According to Statistics Canada, 458 young Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24 committed suicide in 2008. Egale says suicide is the second leading cause of death among Canadian youth, and studies have found suicide rates among gay youth are four times higher than their non-queer peers, the CBC reports.

"This study shows that in schools with GSAs, young people are much more likely to report lower levels of depression and are less likely to drop out of school. 
Many schools -- in both the US and Canada -- continue to prevent GSAs and undermine the purpose of the groups, Ryan notes. “Religious schools that perceive homosexuality as sinful and immoral are a large issue . . . In the media, kids are constantly told ‘it will get better.’ But for so many of these students, it doesn’t get better.” [Emphasis added]

("Pioneering study finds GSAs prevent depression, bullying and suicide". Andrea Houston (Nov. 26, 2011). Xtra!)
Ontario had to pass The Accepting Schools Act (Ontario Bill 13) last year to end this nonsensical obstruction of Gay-Straight Alliances at publicly funded religious schools. Now us Manitobans are experiencing this same dangerous and nonsensical hysteria from Independent religious schools that we, the public, foot half the bill for!

Nonsense like this crap:

The over the top rhetoric, culture-war-mongering, and anti-gay rights attitudes of religious far-rightists such as pastor Ray Duerksen is utterly unhelpful. I wouldn't be surprised if it contributes to the toxically anti-gay environment in Steinbach were brave youth like Evan Wiens are victimized, with cameras rolling!

The adults have to put a stop to this.    

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