Evangelicals: Manitoba’s ‘anti-bullying’ Bill 18 violates religious freedom

Ottawa – Canada’s largest Evangelical network has slammed Manitoba’s proposed anti-bullying legislation (Bill 18), saying it would “violate the religious freedom of religious schools” by forcing them to promote sexual concepts contrary to the Bible.

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) said in a press release today that the most up-to-date data paints a different picture of bullying in schools than what is often portrayed by mainstream media.

“While we might think from the media coverage that children are most often bullied for reasons relating to sexual orientation or gender identity, students are actually most frequently bullied, both in traditional forms of aggression as well as through cyber-bullying, for three primary reasons: body image or appearance; school grades or marks; and cultural background and race,” said Don Hutchinson, EFC’s Vice-President and General Legal Counsel.

One survey from the Toronto District School Board found that body image alone far surpassed every other reason for bullying, at 38 percent, followed by grades/marks at 17 percent, and cultural background at 11 percent. Bullying based on gender was at 6 percent.

The NDP’s proposed anti-bullying bill would force schools, including private ones, to accommodate homosexual student clubs under the name gay-straight alliance (GSA).

A growing number of Manitoba politicians, religious leaders, and principals of private school have added their voice to the escalating clamor against the bill, saying that it would force faith-based schools to hand over their freedom to agenda-driven government bureaucrats.

Canada’s Public Safety Minister MP Vic Toews recently called the bill “unconstitutional,” saying that 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.”

But Manitoba’s Minister of Education Nancy Allen has stated on numerous occasions that the bill will not be amended to accommodate faith-based groups.

In an updated paper titled “By the Numbers: Rates and Risk Factors for Bullying: A Brief Examination of Canadian Bullying Statistics,” the EFC critiqued the bill’s definition of bullying as “wide” and “unrealistic”.

Bill 18 defines bullying as including behaviours that “should be known to cause...harm to another person’s...feelings.”

The EFC states: “The broad scope of this definition means that any student who hurts another student’s feelings, whether intentional or unintentional, could be subject to disciplinary measures. Enforcement of this policy appears to be unrealistic as it will place the burden on school administrators to investigate every instance of hurt feelings in schools.”

The EFC is calling on the NDP government to reducing bullying by making “good decisions based on good data”.

“Any measure should be inclusive and considerate of every child, bullied for any reason.”

A legislature committee is expected to hold public hearings on the bill this spring.