By André Schutten (www.ARPACanada.ca): For the past half year, the Ontario ARPA groups have worked hard to lobby against Bill 13, the so-called “Accepting Schools Act.” Hundreds of hours, thousands of dollars, countless emails and letters to Members of Provincial Parliament, and many prayers were spent in trying to amend the Bill or have it stopped completely. We rallied with other groups across the province. We presented comprehensive legal arguments against the problematic sections of the Bill. But we failed, it seems. The Bill passed, with the only real amendments being the inclusion of new, confusing, and undefined terms like biphobia, transphobia, gender identity and gender expression.
Many of us were discouraged. The announcement that the government “heard loud and clear from Ontarians” that Bill 13 is what is needed made it all the more frustrating, especially since 80% of those presenting to the Committee called for the Bill to be scrapped or comprehensively amended. Was it worth it?
It was worth it! First of all, we are called to be faithful, not to win. It’s, of course, nice to win, and we strive to win, but we aren’t called to win. I’m reminded of what the Lord says about being a prophet to our culture. In Chapter 3:17ff, God tells Ezekiel to warn the people and if he fails to do so, their blood will be on his head. We have fulfilled that part of our mission by telling our leaders that this legislation is wrong.
Also, our voices have been heard. There have been too many legislative changes where the Christian community has not mobilized, has not said no, and where the provincial government has been able to make legislative changes without any heat and without any controversy. Not this time. Many politicians have been warned, they have risked votes, they had to fight to get this through and it wasn’t easy.
And our arguments are now on public record. Our written submissions are in the hands of politicians and the people alike. The Hansard transcripts of the Committee meeting include our warning to the government that this Bill cannot stand. Looking now to the future, when this legislation is challenged in court, the government cannot play the ignorance card; they cannot say that some constitutional violations were unintended consequences because we warned them of these consequences. Because of our warning we can reasonably conclude that any constitutional violation arising out of Bill 13 was indeed intended, as the government was forewarned of them and chose to do nothing.
We have learned from this experience and we will be all the more able to tackle these types of issues in the future. We know how to mobilize and can mobilize faster, better and more effectively and efficiently than before. We’ve built relationships with other groups. We’ve grown in our own communities. Our people are more aware of the challenges out there. And we know how much work to expect next time.
There were some who said, “Why bother? We can’t make a difference, and besides, this doesn’t affect us or our schools anyway.” We now know that the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission has every intention of making it apply to all of our schools. She stated her intentions on public record. This will be our next fight. What happens “out there” inevitably comes “in here”. The front line is moving closer and closer to the home front. It’s a lesson taught by history and experience –if we fail to advance our ideas in the marketplace, we will end up trying to defend them inside the home and church and Christian school.
To all of you who worked so hard, thank you! Your perseverance, dedication and labour was worth it. Take a breather this summer, but be ready to gear up again: this fight ain’t over yet!