Manitoba Bill 18
Bill 18 is anti-bullying legislation, introduced by the provincial Education Minister, Nancy Allen, which modifies the Public Schools Act (Safe and Inclusive Schools). In part, it expands the definition of bullying to include cyber-bullying, through such activities as text messaging, instant messaging and social media.
It requires that school boards establish a respect for human diversity policy, which must accommodate “student activity that promotes the school environment as being inclusive of all pupils, including student activities and organizations that use the name “gay-straight alliance”.”
There has been a lot of objection to the bill, primarily voiced from some more conservative religious groups. The objections have included vague misconceptions and misperceptions over what the bill would accomplish. Arguments have been put forth from these groups, attempting to present the objections in terms of definitions being too vague or too broad, but the main objection being that it is an attack on the religious freedom of faith-based schools.
They have interpreted the bill to mean that it requires them to put aside their religious convictions regarding their belief in the sinfulness of homosexuality by allowing groups like gay-straight alliances to exist in their schools. They appear to feel that this is equal to “promoting” homosexuality. This is not to paint all religious groups with the same brush, as we recognize that some more accepting, inclusive religious organizations and faith traditions have spoken up in support of the bill, but unfortunately the ones opposed have been getting the lion’s share of the media attention.
We believe that all people, especially students, should be respected and protected, no matter what their sexual orientation. In this case in particular, the rights of the individual should take precedence over the right to religious freedom.