Caucus reluctantly votes for “watered-down” resolution
Members of the NL NDP caucus have voted to support the anti-bullying motion introduced by Education critic Dale Kirby (MHA, St. John’s North), despite government amendments which weaken its original intent.
Kirby had asked the House to vote to enshrine anti-bullying measures in the Schools Act, 1997. Government removed that clause, the definition of bullying, and public consultations from the motion, substituting a list of existing government programs and its announced plan to consult with groups that do not include children and parents.
“We voted for it because we are optimists. We hope government will actually take concrete actions to improve the situation for our children rather than mouthing more platitudes and promises,” Kirby said.
The MHA added that the biggest disappointments in the amendment were the changing of his proposed consultation process and the apparent reluctance to elevate anti-bullying measures to become law.
“When Nova Scotia held consultations to draw up anti-bullying legislation, 1500 students shared their feelings,” said Kirby. “The minister’s amendment speaks specifically only of consulting teachers, school boards and law enforcement professionals. Who is more of an expert on bullying than a person who lives with it every day?”
Enshrining anti-bullying measures into legislation is important, he added, because “Our laws should reflect our core values and principles and indicate what we stand for as a society. Relying on guidelines means that anti-bullying actions can vary depending on the schools that students attend, resulting in an inconsistent patchwork of both adherence and enforcement.
“The standard of consistency that comes from legislation has been an important part of changing public attitudes to using seatbelts, drinking and driving, and smoking, to name just a few.”