The Honourable Liz Sandals, Minister of Education: Statement to the Legislative Assembly
International Day of Pink
Queen's Park, TorontoCheck Against Delivery
Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to stand in the house to raise awareness for the International Day of Pink, which is next Wednesday, April 8.
As members of this Legislature know, the International Day of Pink was started when a young man in ninth grade was bullied for wearing a pink shirt in a Nova Scotia high school.
Then, two students took action by buying pink shirts and handing them out to friends to wear to school.
To their surprise, hundreds of students wore pink to show support for the bullied student.
By doing so, they stood up against bullying and showed that it was unacceptable in their school.
Today, I want to recognize schools across Ontario that are taking steps to raise awareness of the impact of bullying and promoting safe, inclusive and accepting environments in our schools every day.
And I especially want to thank all of our young people who will organize pink shirt days in their schools across Ontario next Wednesday.
Together, we are part of one voice that says we will not accept bullying, harassment, discrimination or hatred in our schools or in our society.
In particular, I want to recognize and thank The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity [formerly Jer's Vision], Egale, Kids Help Phone and many other organizations for leading the way on bullying prevention issues across Ontario and Canada.
Mr. Speaker, while we have taken important steps to prevent and address bullying in our schools, we know that there are still too many students who feel unsafe or unwelcome.
Students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or questioning are often the target of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia at school.
Sadly, we all know the tragic impact this can have.
Mr. Speaker, for our students to do well in school, they must feel safe and accepted.
For this reason, I am proud that our government has been a leader in bullying prevention and intervention.
We led the way by developing robust legislation, such as the Accepting Schools Act, and by developing resources for school boards that address bullying and victimization through prevention, intervention and supports.
The Accepting Schools Act, introduced in 2012, was the first of its kind in Canada. Through the act, it provides a definition of bullying and cyber-bullying and requires school boards to take measures to prevent and address inappropriate student behaviour.
Putting an end to bullying cannot be done by one person alone. It is the responsibility of everyone in the school community to ensure that our schools are safe, inclusive and accepting for all.
That's why it is important that our schools work with parents, students and staff in developing policies to prevent bullying in our schools and classrooms.
As a complement to our efforts on accepting schools, our government is also expanding supports for children and youth with mental health issues.
We have added resources for educators to support students' mental health and promote well-being as part of the Open Minds, Healthy Minds: Ontario's Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy.
We're also continuing our partnership with Kids Help Phone so that our young people have access to 24/7 telephone and web-based professional counselling services.
And Mr. Speaker, in February, our government took further steps towards ending bullying by releasing the revised up-to-date Health and Physical Education curriculum.
We needed to update our curriculum so that students understand the importance of things like:
- Healthy relationships
- Having the confidence to say "no"
- Safe use of technology and the Internet to help eliminate cyber-bullying
- Developing inclusive communities, and
- Mental Health
Mr. Speaker, it is the responsibility of everyone to speak out against bullying.
Inappropriate behaviour - such as bullying, cyber-bullying, gender-based violence, and incidents based on homophobia, transphobia and biphobia - is unacceptable.
We must continue to work together to promote the health and well-being of our students and ensure that they continue to learn in safe, inclusive and accepting school environments.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I hope that all members will recognize the International Day of Pink next Wednesday and show their support by wearing something pink.
Together we can help foster a culture of safety, acceptance and inclusiveness in our schools and in our society.