QUEEN’S PARK – Leader’s Ledger – In recent months and years a great deal of attention has been paid to the impacts of bullying in our schools. A lot of this attention has been focused on high profile suicides that have been caused by bullying.
As a result, the government introduced Bill 13, better known as anti-bullying legislation, which is intended to promote a healthier environment for our schools.
I am inclined to support this bill. There are, however, some concerns I have with provisions in the legislation that I would like to see addressed before giving it my full support.
My biggest concern is this bill’s implementation in northern schools. One of the most concerning aspects of this bill is that it allows for the expulsion of bullies, but my question is simple: how does this work in communities with only one school?
Many of our northern communities only have one school, be it elementary or high school, and the nearest alternate school may be an hour or more away. So what happens when we have a problem with a bully? Are the parents forced to drive the student to another community each day? Are they forced to billet with strangers in a new community? Or, even more concerning, does this provision force educators to look the other way and pretend like nothing is happening? Right now that question is not being answered, and I am hopeful it will be addressed when the bill is examined more closely by committee.
While I do have problems with government legislating all aspects of our daily lives, which some refer to as creating a nanny-state, I do believe schools and educators need guidelines they can follow in difficult circumstances like these. The lack of guidelines means schools act differently across the province and we need to take steps to ensure not only that the treatment is fair, but that all of our schools are safe for students to attend. It is for that reason that I believe anti-bullying legislation is necessary. Doing nothing is not an option. We need a solution that takes into consideration the realities of all communities across this province, not just southern Ontario.
Sarah Campbell MPP
Kenora Rainy River