In October of last year, NDP MP Dany Morin proposed anti-bullying legislation in the House of Commons. Conservatives, including Peter MacKay, defeated it.

Over a year later, following the tragic cyber bullying death of Rehtaeh Parsons, the Harper Conservatives are ready to pass their own piece of anti-cyber bullying legislation, Bill C-13, being championed by none other than current Justice Minister Peter MacKay. Could it be that they learned their lesson and are finally doing something about a problem that needs to be dealt with?

Well, the bill does deal with cyber bullying, making it illegal to transmit images of someone without their consent for the purpose of intimidation. That’s fine by me, cyber bullying is a huge problem that we need to get rid of, along with analog or old-school bullying.

The problem is the bill also brings back some of the provisions from Bill C-30, you know, the one that then Justice Minister Vic Toews defended by saying “you’re either with us, or you’re with the child pornographers.” Canadians widely rejected that bill and the Conservatives promised us that they had scrapped it.

Turns out they didn’t scrap all or even most of it. They just re-branded it.

If you want the details on what’s in and what’s out, Micheal Geist has a thorough rundown. Long story short, law enforcement will gain a bunch of new powers that have nothing to do with online bullying.

It makes sense that the Conservatives blocked the NDP anti-bullying legislation. Why waste a perfectly good hot-button issue by dealing with it directly when you can use it to justify passing a whole bunch of unrelated laws that people already rejected when they saw through your child porn smokescreen?

It’s like telling a kid in the playground that you’ll stop some other kid from taking their lunch money but only if they agree to share their lunch with you. Sounds like bullying to me.

We need to attack bullying just as we need to attack child porn. Direct laws that deal with these issues can and should do it.

Unfortunately, Harper and his gang of bullies don’t see the intrinsic benefit in dealing with real problems. They are only tools to get what they want and in this case it’s a surveillance state.

So what can we do about it? Raise hell, yes, but unless MacKay slips up and has his own George Bush moment like Toews did, that might not be enough.

I think the best solution is for our elected officials to propose an alternative: a bill that deals with the real issues but eliminates the secret Harper agenda.

Looks like the NDP already had this idea. Despite the defeat of Morin’s bill, Robert Chisholm has proposed another private members’ bill, C-540, which tackles the issue of cyber bullying head on, without any unnecessary baggage. If the Conservatives vote against this, they are voting against parts of their own bill.

If it passes, we’ll have legislation that is needed and there will be no excuse for the stuff we don’t. If it doesn’t then at the very least, Harper will be exposed as the bully that he is.

Photo by Reuters

There is a preposterously detrimental bill brewing in Tennessee, referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. This bill is a revived and modified version of the bill Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield proposed in 2011, which threatened to bar teachers from discussing homosexuality in the classroom in grades K-8.

Originally this bill had been put to rest by the House after making it past the Senate, but has now since been put back on the table with a malicious new twist: teachers could be forced to out homosexual students, or students who are even just suspected of being gay.

Stacey Campfield’s modified Bill S.B. 0234, which he dubbed the Classroom Protection Act, targets LGBTQ youth and could result in devastating and irrevocable consequences for the affected students.

There are a few key phrases to note in this bill:

The general assembly recognizes that certain subjects are particularly sensitive and are, therefore, best explained and discussed within the home. Because of its complex societal, scientific, psychological, and historical implications, human sexuality is one such subject.” [Bold added]

[…] “At grade levels pre-K through eight (pre-K-8), any such classroom instruction, course materials or other informational resources that are inconsistent with natural human reproduction shall be classified as inappropriate for the intended student audience and, therefore, shall be prohibited.” [Bold added]

Given Stacey Campfield’s track record we don’t have to read between the lines too much to assume that “inconsistent with natural human reproduction” directly targets homosexuality. Just wait folks, it gets worse…the newly concocted version of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill has been adjusted slightly to incorporate this section:

“LEA policies and procedures adopted pursuant to this section shall not prohibit”[…]”A school counselor, nurse, principal or assistant principal from counseling a student who is engaging in, or who may be at risk of engaging in, behavior injurious to the physical or mental health and well-being of the student or another person; provided, that wherever possible such counseling shall be done in consultation with the student’s parents or legal guardians. Parents or legal guardians of students who receive such counseling shall be notified as soon as practicable that such counseling has occurred”.

How can we assume that Campfield is including homosexuality as being “injurious to the physical or mental health and well-being of the student”? Well, Stacey Campfield isn’t very subtle, and was quoted as saying: “The act of homosexuality is very dangerous to someone’s health and safety.” [See video at 1:09 minutes in]

This all would imply that faculty members cannot acknowledge the existence of homosexuality…unless, of course, a student is suspected or engaged in homosexual behaviour, and that, of course, warrants immediate parental notification. This bill does not prohibit the counseling of students, but a complete breach of student-counselor trust will be enforced. This sounds like a grossly blatant disregard for common sense and civil rights!

Stacey Campfield
Stacey Campfield

If this bill passes it will undoubtedly create an environment of constant fear and apprehension for LGBTQ students. I cannot stress enough how psychologically damaging it will be if these kids cannot seek confidential counseling, discuss and pose questions about their sexuality and feel like they are a part of a supportive environment. School should be a place where students can feel safe to learn and explore knowledge.

So, what’s going on Tennessee? Despite the growing number of anti-bullying campaigns that have been prevalent in the U.S over the past few years, gay teen suicides are a major issue. The Southern states aren’t known for their inclusivity of homosexuality and this bill will only instigate bullying and further alienation of LGBTQ students. Somehow, segregating a demographic of youth and instilling the belief that their sexuality, or questioning of their sexuality, is fundamentally wrong, doesn’t seem like a productive way to get teen suicide figures to decrease.

The state of acceptance for the LGBTQ community is volatile in the Southern states and a measure like this would only cause regression and devastation to the gay community. This bill would actively work on destroying progress made by anti-bullying campaigns, essentially giving bullies a green light to single out students suspected of homosexuality and consequently land them in the dangerous situation of being prematurely outed to their parents.

Unfortunately, being outed can come with grave consequences, often resulting in rejection from the home. Recent studies done by The Williams Institute, the Palette Fund and the True Colors Fund, have found that 40% of homeless youth in the shelter system identify as being LGBT.

It is a horrifying thought that this bill could actually pass, and we can only hope that the erroneous and harmful implementations contained in this bill will never come to fruition.

* Top image by Jason Pence McBroom, Out & About