The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada issued an analysis criticizing Manitoba’s proposed anti-bullying legislation. Falling Short: Manitoba’s Bill 18, The Safe and Inclusive Schools Act argues that the bill violates religious and parental freedoms and will lead to years of costly lawsuits.

Bill 18 amends The Public Schools Act with measures targeting bullying and promoting diversity. It provides a definition of bullying, mandates that schools create “respect for human diversity” and social media and internet use policies, and imposes a change to bullying reporting requirements. Public schools and publicly-funded independent schools would be bound by the terms of this bill.

The EFC notes that the bill’s definition of bullying includes terms such as “known to cause,” “intended to create,” “should be known to create,” and “real or perceived power imbalance,” that are subjective and fail to take account of the child’s maturity level and awareness of political correctness. “Given the vagueness of the definition and the lack of exemptions for free expression rights, there is concern that expression of faith-informed positions on sexuality or marriage might be considered a form of bullying by Bill 18,” states the report, also mentioning that similar concepts were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court’s Whatcott decision.

The diversity policies that the bill mandates school boards create would have to reflect The Human Rights Code, which protects religious freedom as well as gender identity and sexual orientation. The EFC report wonders: “Will it be argued that the teaching from a Biblical perspective may be discriminatory on certain topics if found inconsistent with the ‘principles’ in the Code? Or will this section be understood as supportive of religious families and schools.”

Moreover, the legislation requires that students wanting to start GSAs, as well as gender equity, anti-racism, and disability rights groups be accommodated. “In singling out some groups of students for special status, Bill 18 inherently creates a second class of

students – those who are bullied for reasons other than those identified in the legislation,” writes the EFC. “The four student organizations mandated by Bill 18 do not reflect the groups of students who are most often bullied, which begs the questions as to why these groups are singled out for special legislative status,” the organization later states.