Students in Canada’s largest province are free to start “Gay Straight Alliance” clubs in schools – including Catholic ones – this fall after the government passed a new anti-bullying law today.
Nearly two-thirds of Ontario legislators supported Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, which includes a provision that allows students to name their own clubs.
“Today is about saying to Ontario students, ‘You can be who you are. You will be safe and accepted at school and the Ontario government supports you in that desire,’” Education Minister Laurel Broten said, according to The Globe and Mail.
More from GlobalPost: Ontario set to allow ‘Gay Straight Alliance’ clubs in all schools
Catholic educators argued against “certain aspects” of the bill that forced them to accept conventions that undermined their faith.
They also said they wanted to fight bullying using their own methods.
“Catholic partners will seek, as we have always done, in a way that is in accord with our faith, to foster safe and welcoming school communities,” Thomas Cardinal Collins, president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, told CityTV.
The anti-bullying legislation came in response to a pair of high-profile suicides last year in Ontario, including an 11-year-old disabled boy.
A 2009 report also found nearly one-third of students in Grades 7 to 12 experienced bullying in some form.
The Gay Straight Alliance Network is a San Francisco-based organization working toward safer schools.
The Ontario teachers association resoundingly supported the legislation.
“(Parents) want their kids to be respected and accepted, they want their schools to be caring places, ideally we’d like to see them as a bit of an extension of the home in terms of the comfort level that our kids might enjoy inside their school,” Premier Dalton McGuinty said, Quebecor Media reported.
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