Public presentations on the province's controversial anti-bullying legislation start Tuesday.

Three hundred and seventeen people have registered to speak on Bill 18; 240 of them are from outside Winnipeg.

The bill hit a nerve in some communities, with opponents arguing it would force them to accept gay rights groups, which contravened their religious beliefs.

Steinbach student Evan Wiens fought to start a gay-straight alliance at his school in the Hanover School Division.

He said he's looking forward to speaking on the bill. He is optimistic it will make things better for gay people in small communities.

"In smaller communities it can be more difficult," he said. "I think that with the bill, students in those small communities, like me, can feel a lot more comfortable at school."

The bill has many critics. Progressive Conservative education critic Kelvin Goertzen said it isn't strong enough.

"The hallmark of good anti-bullying legislation is a description of what the ramifications are going to be, (like) parental involvement," he said. "They also usually have some sort of safeguard for teachers for false allegations. None of that exists in Bill 18."

The Manitoba Teachers Society supports the bill, though.

President Paul Olson said it will protect all students.

"They should not have to come into a school and have to be bullied and be frightened of the people around them. Bill 18 is a potentially strong piece of legislation that can help us do our jobs better."

The committee meeting starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Manitoba Legislature and is open to the public.