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Ontario Legislature Passes Anti-Bullying Legislation, Explicit Safeguards for Gay-Straight Alliances

After a battle going back several years, Ontario students win the right to form GSAs, no matter what their school boards might think.

Photo by {a href=http://www.flickr.com/photos/mlostracco/622840397/}Bitpicture{/a} from the {a href=http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist/}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

Bill 13, the so-called “anti-bullying” legislation that includes a requirement that all schools, including Catholic ones, permit students to form gay-straight alliances, passed its third and final reading today at Queen’s Park, and will become law.

This is the culmination of a one-and-a-half year fight that in March 2011 found its figurehead in Leanne Iskander, a student at St. Joseph Secondary School in Mississauga, who went public with her group’s effort to found a gay-straight alliance there, despite the refusal of school administrators. The issue was brought to prominence in large part by reporting in the LGBT newspaper Xtra!, which took a systematic approach to determining that not a single one of Ontario’s Catholic school boards had a gay-straight alliance, and that school guidelines appeared to forbid students from forming them.

The bill has faced strong opposition from Catholic officials. Last week, Cardinal Thomas Collins, Catholic Archbishop of Toronto, told the Globe and Mail that mandating tolerance of gay-straight alliances would be tantamount to making religious freedom a “second-class right.” The wrangling over Bill 13 has led to a broad public debate over whether or not Ontario’s Catholic school boards should continue to receive public funding.

The vote on the bill was 65 to 36, with the Liberals and NDPs in favour, and the Conservatives against.


See also:

Meet the Vaughan Road Academy Gay-Straight Alliance

Pride, in Their Own Words: Leanne Iskander

Catholic Schools: Separate but Equal Funding

GSA Rally Brings Out the Kids

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