Canada: Ontario Introduces New Anti-Bullying Legislation

Last Updated: March 30 2012
Article by Eric M. Roher

Most Read Contributor in Canada, September 2016

On November 30, 2011, the Ontario Government introduced Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, 2011 for First Reading. The widely published suicides of Jamie Hubley from Ottawa and Mitchell Wilson from Pickering, among other recent suicides involving Canadian youth, provided a catalyst for the new legislation. It is recognized that bullying is an underestimated and pervasive problem in Ontario schools and in its communities.

A 2009 survey of grade 7 to 12 students by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found that almost one in three students has been bullied in school. A 2011 survey by Egale Canada found that 64% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer students felt unsafe at school.

In introducing the new legislation, Laurel C. Broten, the Minister of Education, said that "It is incumbent on each and every one of us – government, teachers, parents, peers, the whole community – to find the pathway forward that allow each student to feel safe, included and welcome in Ontario schools."

Jamie Hubley, the 15 year-old son of Ottawa city counsellor Alan Hubley, took his life after being targeted for his sexual orientation. Mitchell Wilson, an 11 year-old Pickering boy with muscular dystrophy, committed suicide on Labour Day after being tormented at school by friends of a boy accused of mugging him.

Under the proposed bill, which is scheduled to come into force on September 1, 2012, students who bully could face expulsion and school boards will be encouraged to ensure there is early intervention to stop aggressive behaviour.

The highlights of the proposed legislation include the following:

  • Bullying will be defined in the Education Act, with a more expansive definition.
  • School boards will be required to use surveys to monitor the effectiveness of board policies.
  • The third week of November will be designated as Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week.
  • School boards will be required to establish revised policies and guidelines with respect to bullying prevention and intervention in schools.
  • School boards will be required to support students who want to establish and lead activities or organizations that promote gender equity, anti-racism, the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people with disabilities and people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
  • Subsection 310(1) of the Education Act, which sets out the circumstances in which a student must be suspended and considered for possible expulsion, will be amended to include certain circumstances related to bullying and to activities that are motivated by bias, prejudice or hate.

As discussed above, Bill 13 includes a new definition of bullying that would replace the definition set out in Policy/Program Memorandum No. 144 entitled "Bullying Prevention and Intervention" ("PPM 144"). For the first time ever, the proposed definition would be included in the provisions of the Education Act. The proposed definition is as follows:

"Bullying" means repeated and aggressive behaviour by a pupil where,

  1. the behaviour is intended by the pupil to cause, or the pupil ought to know that the behaviour would be likely to cause, harm, fear or distress to another individual, including psychological harm or harm to the individual's reputation, and
  2. the behaviour occurs in a context where there is a real or perceived power imbalance between the pupil and the individual based on factors such as size, strength, age, intelligence, peer group power, economic status, social status, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, family circumstances, gender, race, disability or the receipt of special education,

For the purposes of the definition, bullying behaviour includes the use of any physical, verbal, electronic, written or other means.

This is the first time the definition of bullying includes reference to "psychological harm" or "harm to an individual's reputation". These terms are not defined in the proposed legislation. The new definition appears more expansive than the current definition set out in PPM 144.

Moving the new definition of bullying from Ministry policy into the Education Act will give it enhanced legal authority. In this regard, it is hoped that there will be a greater awareness among all stakeholders, including students, teachers, school administration and parents, as to what constitutes bullying and confirming that such behaviour is not acceptable in Ontario schools.

This definition of bullying pertains to repeated and aggressive behaviour "by a pupil". The current definition in PPM 144 appears to apply where bullying behaviour is initiated by any member of the school community. In this regard, the proposed definition only applies to bullying behaviour that is initiated by a student.

In addition, under the provisions of Bill 13, students involved in bullying could face possible expulsion. Bill 13 proposes an amendment to subsection 310(1) of the Education Act, which sets out the circumstances in which a student must be suspended and considered for possible expulsion. It proposes the following addition to infractions listed in subsection 310(1) of the Education Act.

7.1 Bullying, if,

  1. the pupil has previously been suspended for engaging in bullying; and
  2. the pupil's continuing presence in the school creates an unacceptable risk to the safety of another person.

7.2 Any activity, listed in subsection 306(1) that is motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor.

In light of the proposed amendment, where a student had been previously suspended for engaging in bullying and the student's continuing presence in the school creates an unacceptable risk to the safety of another person, the principal can recommend an expulsion. Under the current provisions of the Education Act, the principal could recommend an expulsion from the student's school only or from all schools of the board.

Only the school board or a committee of the board, consisting of at least three trustees, has the authority to expel a student. In addition, Bill 13 proposes that where a student is involved in certain conduct, such as uttering a threat to inflict serious bodily harm on another person, swearing at a teacher or bullying behaviour that is motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on factors such as race, ethnic origin, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation, the principal could recommend an expulsion.

These proposed changes provide a principal with a greater range of tools to take disciplinary action in circumstances related to bullying or activities motivated by bias, prejudice or hate. Under Bill 13, bullying behaviour will be taken as seriously as physical assault at the school. The purpose of the bill, among other things, is to encourage a positive school climate, address inappropriate student behaviour and promote early intervention.

Research indicates that children who suffer prolonged victimization through bullying, as well as children who use power and aggression as bullies, may experience a range of psycho-social problems that may extend into adolescence and adulthood.

In reviewing Bill 13, a concern arises about support for students who are impacted by the inappropriate behaviour of other students. Depending on the circumstances arising out of an incident of bullying, there may be support needed for the victim of the behaviour, any bystander who may have witnessed the conduct and/or the student who uses power and aggression as a bully.

York University's Debra Pepler, one of Canada's leading experts on bullying, stated that if students are going to face expulsion for their behaviour, they need "alternative classrooms, alternative schools where there is extensive mental health support". She indicated that where students struggle with social and emotional development, the school needs to provide specialized support and services. She said that when students struggle in math, we give them support and tutoring in math. "When they struggle with social and emotional development, it seems to me we should come in with every resource we have."

The new bill was introduced for First Reading on November 30th. However, with a minority of seats in the House, the Liberals will need support from either New Democratic Party or the Progressive Conservative Party for it to become law. On November 30th, all three parties spoke in the House about the importance of working together. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said that given the importance of this issue, now is not the time to "play politics". On November 30th, Progressive Conservative MPP Elizabeth Witmer also introduced her own anti-bullying strategy in the legislature.

It is expected that in the Spring of 2012, the proposed legislation will be passed in some revised form.

On November 30, 2011, Minister Broten provided strong commitment that the Government will pass legislation that will address this complex issue. "We are unequivocal in our commitment that Ontario schools will be places where all of our students will be supported, where all students will be loved for who they are."

The Minister stated:

"We want to do our part to end bullying in our schools, but we will not get there alone. We need the whole school community to be involved. We all have a role to play in helping to make our schools safer."

About BLG

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.