February 29, 2012

Statement to the Legislature
The Honourable Dr. Eric Hoskins
Minister of Children and Youth Services
Pink Shirt Day

Mr. Speaker, I want to wish you and all members of this House a Happy Pink Shirt Day.

And I want to thank all members who are wearing pink today in support of this great cause.

As we often say when we talk about putting a stop to bullying in our schools – this is not something that can be done by any one person.

It takes all of us, speaking with one voice, working together to make the lives of our young people better, and to give them hope.

Without the support and dedication of students, parents, teachers, school board staff and community partners, we can’t fight bullying.

And Pink Shirt Day is a perfect example of the impact we can have when we speak with one voice, when we work together to make positive change and inspire others to do the same.

Pink Shirt Day started when a ninth-grader in Nova Scotia was bullied for wearing a pink shirt.

Seeing what was going on, two schoolmates of that boy brought pink shirts to school and handed them out to their friends.

These two young men decided that they weren’t going to stand idly by while someone was being bullied.

They took action to help one of their schoolmates – to show that there was nothing wrong with boys wearing pink – and in the process, they started a nationwide movement.

The power of what those students did – the power of that act of compassion, and solidarity – was to tell their schoolmate, and all victims of bullying, that you are not alone.

That feeling of loneliness, of isolation, is a feeling that many students have felt – especially students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or two-spirited. Or even students who may be perceived to just be different.

Those young people need to hear not only from their fellow students but from the adults in their life, from their teachers, their mentors, and from elected officials at all levels of government:

You are not alone.

You are supported.

You are loved.

They need to hear those words.

And we as adults must be clear as day – we will not tolerate, for a second, anyone making them feel otherwise.

As my colleague Laurel Broten, the Minister of Education, has said in this House many times, the words we use every day must send a clear message – that we will not tolerate bullying, discrimination and hatred.

Those words must be used to send a much better message – one of acceptance, of caring, and of support.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud that our government is working to deliver that message – through our words. And, like students, teachers and staff who are wearing pink today, we are delivering that message through our actions.

In November, the Minister of Education introduced legislation. If passed, this legislation would help make our schools safer by ensuring that boards take preventative measures against bullying, consider tougher consequences for bullying, and support students who want to promote understanding and respect for all.

The proposed legislation is part of a comprehensive action plan to make our schools safer more accepting places to learn.

We will look at new ways to raise public awareness about the issue of bullying.

And our plan also features expanded mental health supports for children and youth introduced in the last budget, which are already finding their way into schools.

I can’t stress just how important these mental health supports are for children and youth.

For young people that are bullied, the feeling of isolation and loneliness can lead to depression, and we need to be there for those kids when they need us most.

We’re hiring new mental health workers across the province to make sure that mental health services are available when and where they’re needed most.

Because we need to be there for our youth.

They need to know they’re not alone.

That they are supported.

That they are loved.

Let’s make sure we deliver on that promise – that our actions match those words – not just today but everyday here in Ontario.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.