An anti-bullying activist plans to hold a vigil outside the New Brunswick legislature Tuesday after the province announced that an anti-bullying bill will be sent to the standing committee on law amendments.
"This is a tactic that's bullying, to be honest," said Rob Frenette, a former bullying victim who has been leading the fight in support of Bill 52.
"The government, in my opinion, is attempting to get me to steer away from the situation and I'm not going to do that," said Frenette, a second-year journalism student at New Brunswick Community College in Woodstock and co-founder of BullyingCanada.ca.
'If it's not brought up, the bill will die, which means it won't be discussed until the next election. Which means that all this work for seven years is going down the tubes.'—Rob Frenette, anti-bullying activist
The opposition Progressive Conservatives proposed amendments to the Education Act on March 24. Party leader David Alward said the changes are designed to give educators more power to address problem situations.
Education Minister Roland Haché said Monday the bill needs to be studied and sending it to the committee is the best way to do that.
"Well, when the bill goes there it means the bill is going to be studied more in depth. And what it also means is that people can make presentations. Either groups or individuals can make presentations on the bill."
Political games alleged
Frenette, who has pursued politicians for years trying to reform the rules that cover schoolyard bullies, isn't convinced. He contends the government is playing political games and the bill will likely be forgotten.
"If it's not brought up, the bill will die, which means it won't be discussed until the next election. Which means that all this work for seven years is going down the tubes."
Frenette said he plans to camp outside the legislature all week to push for the amendments.
New Brunswick MLAs are scheduled to wrap up a raucous legislative session this week and leave the assembly for the last time before September's provincial election.
Under the proposed law changes, the definition of bullying would include teasing, social exclusion, threats, intimidation, stalking, physical violence, theft, sexual or racial harassment, public humiliation and destruction of property.
The proposal would also cover incidents on school buses and initiate educational programs that show the negative effects of bullying and harassment.
The Department of Education announced in December changes to its policies that give educators leeway to deal with bullies more severely. The department also moved bullying and cyber-bullying to a category of serious misconduct.
Frenette began his fight to change the province's bullying rules when he was a student at Bathurst High School.
He hated going to school because he was routinely taunted about his limp caused by cerebral palsy, he said. He decided to turn his anger into action and eventually formed the anti-bullying organization.