Canada: Manitoba passes anti-bullying bill for gay-straight alliances into law

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The New Democratic Party in Manitoba, Canada has passed an anti-bullying bill requiring schools to accommodate gay-straight alliances, as well as clubs promoting equality between students of different genders, races, and abilities.

Bill 18 was passed during the closing session of the legislature on Friday, bringing its 86-day run to a close.

More than 300 Manitobans spoke at public hearings on the bill.

Supporters said it would promote tolerance and diversity while opponents said it will do nothing to prevent bullying, and would violate “religious freedoms.”

In March, a Rabbi said said gay-straight alliances were “disrespectful” and made an analogy between being gay and breaking kosher.

He said: “It would be wrong for a student of an Orthodox Jewish school to demand the right to eat a lunch of non-kosher food such as pork. It would be even more disrespectful for students to form an official group within the Jewish religious school to advocate for the ‘right’ to eat pork.”

The Conservatives also attempted to force changes to the bill by lobbying to remove a reference to hurt “feelings.”

They said teachers and coaches could be deemed bullies for telling a student they were performing poorly.

Education Minister Nancy Allan said gay-straight alliances provide a safe place for young people during a vulnerable time in their lives.

Members of the Legislative Assembly will return to the legislature this coming November.

Earlier this year, a Canadian teenager in Manitoba who previously voiced his support for the bill won the right to put up posters for the club at his school.

Evan Wiens said he was the only openly gay student in his school, and had faced homophobic bullying to the point where he was afraid to walk through the school corridors.