News / Ottawa

Anti-bullying bill 'ripe' for legal challenge, groups say

Some religious groups opposed to Ontario's new anti-bullying law say it is ripe for a constitutional challenge.

"This legislation now puts a radical homosexual agenda in every publicly-funded, Catholic and Public school across Ontario, under the guise of “bullying prevention,” said the pro-life group Campaign Life Coalition in a statement released after the bill passed third reading Tuesday. It urged all taxpayers and Catholic School Boards to fight the law in court.

Ottawa Lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos, who represents a coalition of religious and parental groups opposing the law, said he warned of a legal challenge at a public consultation in Ottawa last month.

"It is fraught with constitutional problems and will inevitably lead to the violation of the constitutional rights of some people," he said.

A challenge could come from a student who feels his rights have been violated, or from a parent, student, teacher or Catholic school board arguing that the rights afforded to separate schools in Ontario have been violated, he said.

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, which opposes the law, would consider taking on a supportive intervening role in a legal challenge launched by another group or an individual, said president Don Hutchinson.

"We have a very long history of engaging on religious freedom in the courts in Canada and this situation is ripe for that form of intervention," Hutchinson said.

The Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, which oversees the Catholic school system, would not comment directly on the potential for a legal challenge. However, Archbishop of Toronto Thomas Cardinal Collins released a statement Tuesday reiterating the bishops' serious concerns regarding the legislation because it forces schools to allow students to use the word "gay" clubs such as "gay-straight" alliances.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, which supports the legislation, wants the issue settled so teachers can support students undisturbed, but understands everyone has a right to the legal process, said President Kevin O'Dwyer.

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