Several religious groups in Ottawa said an Ontario-government-backed anti-bullying bill could be used to undermine the beliefs taught in religious schools.
An all-party provincial committee is holding hearings today in Ottawa on two competing anti-bullying bills. Bill 13, The Accepting Schools Act, has passed second reading, with the support of the Liberals and NDP, while the Progressive Conservatives are backing their own piece proposed legislation, Bill 14.
The Liberal proposed legislation allows schools to expel bullies and would also force school boards to accept gay-straight alliance clubs.
Advocates say allowing the groups would help students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender gain acceptance and make them less likely to be a target at school.
The push to introduce anti-bullying legislation in the province came from a number of high-profile incidents, including the suicide of Ottawa student Jamie Hubley, the son of councillor Allan Hubley. The younger Hubley was openly gay and his father said he thought bullying was a factor in his son's decision to take his own life.
But religious groups who spoke at a hearing Tuesday on the proposed legislation said Bill 13 goes beyond its stated intention of stopping bullying.
"The bill will likely be used to impose gay-straight alliances or similar content clubs which is in complete disregard for the Catholic faithful ..and the official church doctrine," said Dr. Rene Leiva, a family doctor who describes himself as a Catholic father of five.
Naming groups vital, says MPP
Leiva said he supports Bill 14, the Progressive Conservative legislation which doesn't name or emphasize one group in particular that could be bullied.
But Liberal MPP Yasir Naqvi said naming the groups is vital.
"Sex, creed, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation...you find this in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, find in the human rights code...we need to move ahead with this," said Naqvi.
The government wants to pass the bill in June for implementation this fall.