LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Wednesday 4 October 2023 Mercredi 4 octobre 2023
Report continued from volume A.
Private Members’ Public Business
Erin’s Law (Child Sexual Abuse Prevention and Reporting), 2023 / Loi Erin de 2023 sur la prévention et le signalement des mauvais traitements d’ordre sexuel à l’égard des enfants
Mr. Quinn moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill 123, An Act to amend the Education Act with respect to child sexual abuse prevention and reporting / Projet de loi 123, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l’éducation concernant la prévention et le signalement des mauvais traitements d’ordre sexuel à l’égard des enfants.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Pursuant to standing order 100, the member has 12 minutes for his presentation.
Mr. Nolan Quinn: Before I get into why I moved forward with my private member’s bill, Erin’s Law, I’d like to make sure to thank a few colleagues first. I’ll start with my previous executive assistant, Patrick Mayangi, who helped with some of the logistical lifting, especially right before the first reading of the bill.
My OLIP intern at the time, Lucas Fisher, helped tremendously with a ton of the background research: thank you. Lucas is now attending law school just down the road from here. All the best, Lucas, in your studies.
A huge thank you to Minister Lecce, as well as parliamentary assistant Patrice Barnes, for all their help, support and guidance to get Bill 123 here today.
I also could not forget Justin Saunders from the Ministry of Education, who played an integral role in ensuring my bill made it to first reading. Thank you, Justin, for all your efforts.
Thank you to everyone for all the support of this important piece of legislation.
According to research, one in 10 Canadians reported being sexually victimized by the age of 18. In the majority of child sexual abuse cases, the offender was known to the child. Some 93% of child abuse cases are never brought forward to the police or child welfare. The majority of adult survivors of child sexual abuse report that they did not disclose the abuse to anyone when they were children. There are strong connections between child abuse and mental health conditions later in life. I will get back to some of these figures a bit later on in my speech.
I will now explain my coming to know of Erin’s Law founder, Erin Merryn, and, if you let me, Speaker, why she spoke in my community in the first place. Erin Merryn was the guest speaker for a fundraising event the Children’s Treatment Centre put on in the city of Cornwall in 2015. The Children’s Treatment Centre is a community-based, community-supported agency committed to the prevention and treatment of child abuse in Cornwall; the united counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry; and Akwesasne. For 27 years, the centre has served the children and families in my area with treatment, with no government funding. The community supports the work of the centre through many fundraising campaigns and events throughout the year.
One of the main people involved with the centre is Angelo Towndale. I would consider Angelo a mentor of mine, a very humble man who rallies the community behind the cause and importance of the centre’s work. When Angelo calls, people always pick up the phone.
The Children’s Treatment Centre puts on many fundraisers throughout the year. One such event is the bike-a-thon and breakfast. In 2015, Erin spoke to a crowd of over 600 guests at the breakfast at 6 in the morning; 600 guests up at a fundraising event before the sun rises is a true testament to the man Angelo Towndale is and the important work the Children’s Treatment Centre is doing in Cornwall and area.
I would be remiss to not mention that there are dozens of other committed community members, organizations and businesses that help in fundraising for the centre’s annual operating budget. The centre has had celebrity guests help them fundraise over the years, including TVO personality Steve Paikin, former Canadiens coach Jacques Lemaire, hockey coach and analyst Marc Crawford, and former boxer Gerry Cooney, to name a few. Survivors of abuse have also come out to speak and share their stories to help fundraise for the centre, including Erin Merryn, Oshawa mayor Dan Carter and retired hockey player Sheldon Kennedy, as well.
Back to the breakfast and Erin’s speech: Erin’s Law is the result of abuse Erin endured as a child. She told the crowd at the breakfast of the fact she was never taught to speak up and reveal the abuse she suffered, so she kept it a secret. Her abuse started on the first overnight sleepover by her best friend’s uncle and continued for far too long.
I digress, Speaker, but I have three elementary school-aged children of my own at home who have yet to get the opportunity to have that memorable first sleepover at a friend’s place, partially because of the COVID pandemic and partially because of their age. It pains me to know that what is intended to be a fun and memorable night for children turned into a painful loss of innocence for Erin and many other children like her.
To know that Erin’s abuse first happened at a sleepover at a school friend’s house shows the importance of teaching Erin’s Law to our children in our school system. To know that her pain and suffering could lead to future generations of children being more knowledgeable and, in turn, safer, including my own children, is why I bring forward this private member’s bill.
Erin Merryn went on to tell the crowd attending the breakfast, “When children suffer through something like this, it’s something they never forget. The trauma stays with them forever.” Merryn stated that many schools have mandatory fire and emergency drills, and they have anti-drug programming, but there is a lack of sexual abuse prevention training. That resonated with me that day, and this is why I brought this bill forward.
She mentioned that we teach stranger danger when 90% of the time someone the child trusts and knows is the one abusing them. This is where Erin’s Law comes in, Speaker. Erin’s Law, if passed, will amend the Education Act by adding the following:
“Duties of boards, child sexual abuse prevention and reporting
“170.01.1(1) Every board shall ensure that a policy is established under which pupils in its schools are engaged annually, in a developmentally appropriate manner, regarding the topics of child sexual abuse prevention and reporting, including age-appropriate techniques to recognize child sexual abuse and tell a trusted adult.
“Parents and guardians
“(2) Every board shall ensure that information respecting child sexual abuse prevention and reporting, including information on available counselling and resources for children who are sexually abused, is made available to all parents and guardians of pupils in its schools.”
Third, but no less important than the first two:
“Teachers and other staff
“(3) Every board shall ensure that information respecting child sexual abuse prevention and reporting, including information on available counselling and resources for children who are sexually abused, is provided annually to all teachers and other staff in its schools.”
This past week, I’ve been communicating with Erin about anything she believes needs to be said in the assembly about this legislation. She wanted me to tell all of the lawmakers when I speak to note that “New York state killed Erin’s Law for seven years, but I (Erin) kept coming back, knowing kids needed this and first year it is required to be taught 26 boys come forward from one school district. For over 15 years the principal molested them. Some as old as 19 took the stand saying how this impacted their life and threatened to never tell anyone. He was convicted last November and given 63 years in prison.”
Her words should resonate with all lawmakers, as they had the opportunity to enact the legislation for seven years. What could have been if it had been enacted acted sooner? Would more children have been saved, less trauma have happened?
Let’s go back to some of my comments from earlier. In the majority of child sexual abuse cases, the offender was known to the child, like the principal was; 93% of child abuse cases are never brought forward to the police or child welfare. Twenty-six cases were brought forward after the first year of education which possibly would have gone unreported, as many stated on the stand. The majority of adult survivors of child sexual abuse reported that they did not disclose the abuse to anyone when they were children. If it weren’t for Erin’s Law, those 26 boys and possibly more children would have been part of the 93% that go unreported.
This principal was finally stopped because of Erin’s Law being included in the education curriculum. His reign of devastation ended after 15 long years of abuse. Erin’s Law stopped him. Thank you.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Thank you. The member from London West.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: I’m pleased to rise on behalf of the official opposition to speak to Bill 123, the private member’s legislation brought forward by the member for Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry. This is a bill, of course, that we will be supporting. It’s hard to imagine, as a parent, as a member of the community, anything more horrendous than childhood sexual abuse. We all understand the devastating consequences of that abuse that the child will carry with them for the rest of their lives, and particularly if they haven’t had a way to disclose the abuse that they have experienced.
And there is so much research that confirms what the member said, that the perpetrators of child sexual abuse are overwhelmingly people who are known to the child. They are coaches, they are relatives, they are close family friends, they are ministers, they are teachers and staff members in the school. In all of these assaults on a young person, we need to make sure that the child has a way to convey what is happening to them and a way to hopefully prevent the abuse; to understand their bodily autonomy and their right to say no, regardless of who is approaching them and how they are being approached.
The legislation that this PMB is based on was introduced in the US, as the member said, by Erin Merryn, who is a child sexual abuse survivor herself. It has been passed in 38 US states, and it has been introduced in another 12 US jurisdictions. So, Ontario would become the first jurisdiction to move forward with this in our education system.
The bill requires school boards to develop policies in which pupils engage annually in a developmentally appropriate manner in instruction regarding the topics of child sexual abuse prevention and reporting, including how to recognize child sexual abuse and how to tell a trusted adult. The bill also requires the provision of information by the school board to parents and guardians about child sexual abuse prevention and reporting, and also about available counselling and resources for children who are sexually abused. That information, as I said, is to be provided to parents and guardians, as well as to teachers and staff.
And then, finally, the bill includes a number of regulatory powers, delegated to the minister, about the policies, about the way in which children are to be engaged, about the information that is supposed to be distributed.
So, Speaker, as I said, we support this bill. But we do want to highlight that much of the information that is referred to in the bill is already being provided in Ontario schools through the health and sexual development curriculum.
We also want to raise a concern that the information that is to be distributed to teachers and parents about resources and counselling for children who are sexually abused presumably only refers to external resources, because we know that schools in this province have been severely underfunded by this government and are really, really struggling to provide the supports that young people need, especially those who will be dealing with the consequences of an experience of child sexual abuse. We know that there are fewer psychologists in Ontario schools now than there were 10 years ago under the Liberals. We know that nine in 10 principals in Ontario schools say that they need more mental health supports in school. We know that kids have been hit harder than anyone else by the COVID pandemic and the lockdowns, and yet this government is spending less than 30 cents per day per child on children’s mental—
Mr. Dave Smith: Point of order.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Sorry. Point of order?
Mr. Dave Smith: The discussion is about Erin’s Law, the private member’s bill itself, and I would request that the member talk about the private member’s bill itself.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Caution to the member.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: Thank you very much, Speaker.
I do support the resources abut counselling for children who are sexually abused, but I would like to see our school system have the ability to provide those resources, to have more caring adults in a building, to have training on how to respond to disclosures of sexual abuse, to be able to support children who are dealing with very serious mental health issues that are compounded if they have had an experience of childhood sexual abuse at home. So, our concern is that passing this PMB without the government providing funding to move this PMB forward will not provide the support that children in Ontario should expect to see under a bill of this kind.
We also want to highlight some concerns about the overreliance on the regulatory provisions of the bill. Like we see in many kinds of legislation when much of the content or the provisions of the legislation are included in the regulations, then there is a lack of ability to be able to participate in the development of those regulations. We don’t debate it here in the Legislature, the public isn’t invited to have input on those regulations; and certainly the people in our school boards, the people in our schools, would have a direct interest in the regulations that are included in this bill. Because we want this bill to be effective. We want this bill to be able to support young people who have faced an experience of childhood sexual abuse.
As I mentioned, we’re also concerned about much of the debate that is currently taking place about the human development and sexual health curriculum, which does teach children at a very young age about the proper names for their body parts. So, if they are being touched improperly, they can convey exactly where they have been touched to an adult. That curriculum also includes education about consent. What does consent mean? What can a child do when an adult is asking them to do something? What are the boundaries that children are allowed to exercise? Because many children believe that if an adult is telling them to do something then that is what they have to do.
But given the current debate about the human development and sexual health curriculum, we’re concerned about some of the comments that this government has made about this curriculum being used to indoctrinate children in our schools, because this curriculum is one of the strongest safeguards that we can provide to children in our schools to protect them from childhood sexual abuse. That’s why when this government tried to remove that curriculum there was such pushback from the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, the Nurse Practitioners’ Association of Ontario, Canadian Women in Medicine, the Ontario Association of Social Workers and others, because they knew that changing that curriculum would actually put children at greater risk of sexual abuse.
So, saying that, Speaker, I appreciate the member’s intent in bringing forward this bill, but we will want to see a very robust financial contribution, financial commitment in order to make this what will really protect children in our schools.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Further debate?
Mr. Michael Mantha: I’m happy to add my comments to the debate on Bill 123, Child Sexual Abuse Prevention and Reporting, 2023, also known as Erin’s Law. I want to commend the member from Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry for introducing this bill and bringing it forward for second reading.
Speaker, it is my intention to support this bill at second reading. Teaching children about abuse, how to prevent it and how to report it safely is something that Ontario has been behind on for years, and I am glad to see a government member bringing this issue forward in the Legislature.
I have worked for a long time with an initiative known as Loverin’s Law, and I know the member is familiar with that. We had the opportunity to speak about it yesterday. There is a bill standing in my name on the order paper known as Loverin’s Law. This is a very similar bill to the member’s, which I have introduced three times during my time here. The legislation was spearheaded by Charmaine Loverin, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who worked tirelessly to bring people together to increase education, awareness and support for other abuse survivors.
Charmaine’s fight to improve Ontario’s education around child sexual abuse started in 2013. Over that time, she introduced countless petitions signed by hundreds of Ontarians, worked with all MPPs from all stripes and had Loverin’s Law tabled at least five times, over three governments. Sadly, Charmaine passed away last year after her battle with ALS. She was a passionate believer in the power to bring about positive change in the world by working together. Her work to see improved abuse education in Ontario continues through Gatehouse, an organization that supports adults recovering and healing from childhood sex abuse, and VOICES Canada, a youth advocacy group.
Speaker, Canadian statistics show that three in five girls and one in six boys face abuse in their lifetime; 93% of the abuse is inflicted by someone that children are supposed to trust. We know that many cases of sexual abuse go unreported as well. We have come a long way as a society in reducing the stigma around the conversation of sexual abuse, but there is still more work to be done.
Ontario does not currently provide children in school with education and prevention tools to help students of all ages deal with physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Issues of abuse transcend culture, socio-economic status and religion. We know that suffering abuse as a child can result in long-term injury, creating feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety and isolation, which can result in self-harming behaviours, depression, addictions and even suicide. Evidence-based early education is an intervention framework to increase awareness and empower young people to identify, prevent and report sexual abuse.
Speaker, while I plan to support this legislation at second reading, I do think there is room for improvement that I hope to see included at the committee stage, which, again, the member and I spoke about yesterday. In speaking with Gatehouse and VOICES Canada, they raised concerns about the lack of consultation required by this legislation before implementing a policy. Nowhere in this bill is the Minister of Education required to consult with experts on abuse prevention or stakeholders in the education sector. These groups feel that on such a sensitive subject, it is imperative that any policy put in place is evidence-based and supported by the most current studies on abuse prevention. I agree with them on this and hope that the member who introduced this bill will meet with them and work to see their suggestions brought into this legislation.
Stopping childhood abuse is a non-partisan issue, Speaker. Again, I think it is very hopeful that the government side is bringing this forward, and I will do what I can to help to improve this legislation and see it pass third reading. Protecting children and helping victims of abuse is something that we—all of us in this room—know must be done, and it must be done right.
In my closing statement, I do want to recognize some individuals that have been working tirelessly on this from Gatehouse and VOICES Canada: Ahmeda Mansaray-Richardson, Maria Barcelos, Arthur Lockhart, Jenita Singh, Rebecca Howe, Michelle Barry, Lynn Wilson. They have been tireless advocates for survivors of abuse and have helped push to see Ontario adopt a curriculum that will help teach abuse reporting and prevention in our schools.
I commend the member. I look forward to working with you.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Further debate?
Ms. Laura Smith: It gives me very great pleasure and honour to speak on Bill 123, Erin’s Law.
Speaker, in 2021, Statistics Canada released a disturbing report on sexual crimes against Canadian children. Sexual interference incidents increased by 1,340 cases, representing an 18% increase compared to 2020; this is a 38% increase in incidents compared to the previous five-year average.
In 2022, the Ontario government became the first Canadian jurisdiction to publicly disclose and make parents and guardians aware of educators who have been involved in sexual abuse or other serious criminal proceedings. This legislation also mandated that all certified educators must complete a comprehensive, mandatory sexual abuse prevention program. These are very positive steps, and education is a key intervention to prevent childhood sexual abuse, intimate partner violence and sexual violence. These are all very important issues.
Speaker, I’ve had some experience working with children and youth. In my previous life, I dealt with matters under the child protection act. I was also vice-president of a nursery school, and I’m a volunteer in youth sports. I’ve dealt with many a file, some with sad endings, but some very happy. Unfortunately, I’ve come to an understanding of child sexual abuse, especially its effects later on in life.
Childhood sexual abuse has been correlated with higher levels of depression, guilt, shame, self-blame, eating disorders, somatic concerns, anxiety, dissociative patterns, repression, denial, sexual issues and relationship problems.
Children need to feel safe. It’s instrumental to their mental health and stability, now and in adulthood.
When working with youth, we always told the children, “If you see something, say something.” But how are they supposed to say something if they’re not sure what they’re supposed to be looking for, or if they see something and they don’t understand what they saw?
So Erin’s Law uses age-appropriate techniques to recognize child sexual abuse and gives students the tools and skill set to trust and tell an adult. It also provides parents and guardians and educators with the ability to spot warning signs of child sexual abuse. This education not only gives them an understanding of what is and isn’t okay, but it also empowers them with the tools of vocabulary, to tell trusted adults and health care professionals when they need help.
Erin Merryn, the creator of this program, reflects on her journey she suffered at the hands of a friend’s family member and her own cousin, living in a quiet shame, not knowing how to share her story. In a video, Erin Merryn talks about how she, as a child, and other students trained for bus drills, fire drills and tornado drills—but nothing about the drill involved with an abusive situation. It’s exactly as the member said: She wasn’t ready to deal with that. It was only when Erin was 13, when her 11-year-old sister shared her story, that Erin discovered that her cousin, who was also her abuser, had also been victimizing her little sister. This reality gave Erin the final push of courage, giving her a voice.
This is why we need to make sure that children have knowledge of a safe, reliable adult to confide in, and we need to equip those safe adults with the tools needed to help those children. We need to make sure our children know it’s okay to speak up. We need to make sure children know that they’re not alone and that there’s help out there. Bill 123 is part of that solution.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this important issue. Let’s work together to keep our children safe.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Further debate?
Ms. Laurie Scott: I’m pleased to rise in support of my colleague the MPP from Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry, for Bill 123, commonly known as Erin’s Law. When he started the story with part of his community and the members of his community that came out at 6 in the morning, because that topic they had not yet heard about meant a lot to them, and I am sure this is a very big part of the reason that this member was elected and is here with us in the Legislature today.
And it is about protecting children, Madam Speaker. Sexual abuse, as you know, is an emotionally abusive crime and is often accompanied by other forms of mistreatment. It has been said many times in the Legislature, but it is a fundamental betrayal of trust and an abuse of power over the most innocent and vulnerable among us, and those are our children.
Erin—the bill is named after her—the advocacy that she has done, what she has been through, it’s an enormous amount of strength for a survivor to be able to get to the point that she is, so she is to be praised immensely. To have gone through the many abuses that she had and then, when her sister was also abused, to then go to their parents, who then helped them—and I think that’s the main core of this bill: It’s driving awareness, it’s giving the setting for children to understand, unfortunately, if this is happening to them. There are many stories that we’ve all seen in the news, and some of us, unfortunately, know from our home constituencies that this is occurring—but to also help the parents know where to go.
Education is key to prevention, and we see that. The Minister of Education many times has moved advancements for protection of our children in our schools in the legislation that he has brought forward. And the member from Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry is taking the time and the work to go and work with the Ministry of Education, with the Minister of Education, to do his homework to get it to this stage. And yes, private members’ bills will be heard before committees, so there could be more input added; that is our process, and that’s what will happen. But I think collectively what I’m hearing here and what Erin’s goal and what MPP Nolan Quinn’s goal is, is to bring this to the province of Ontario so we can protect our children, give them the tools, the educators the tools, the parents the tools so that we can go forward and champion the protections for our young people.
We know that age is quite often an obstacle to disclosure, especially if the abuser is a family member or someone that they know and trust. I don’t think that we can say that enough. And it’s in this isolation when a child is disproportionately vulnerable to further manipulation and exploitation and the many crimes and the sadness in their lives going forward. So parents deserve to know that their children are safe from predators, and school must be a safe place for all students.
I, again, commend MPP Nolan Quinn for his advocacy, his work, his passion that you saw here, and I hope that we can all support his private member’s bill, Erin’s Law.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Further debate?
Ms. Catherine Fife: Thanks to the member from Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry for bringing Erin’s Law to the floor of the Legislature. As you were speaking about the impact of abuse, I was, of course, thinking about our colleague Sol, the member from Kiiwetinoong, who disclosed with such courage last week what he experienced and what he and his family members and friends experienced in residential schools.
And so, the theme here is that if you have the courage to come forward and disclose sexual abuse, that support should be there, and as should the training for those supporters. It is important to note that in Ontario and across Canada and many other jurisdictions, a majority—over 50%—of the disclosures around abuse come through those school systems. So that teacher, that educational assistant, that secretary—these are the very people that in many children’s lives are the only trusted people. We don’t want to talk about that because we’re talking now in this province, across this country, about parental rights, but it needs to be said that that person needs to be there and they need to be trained, which is a goal of the legislation.
So, 90% of teachers, when they receive their training, feel more comfortable reporting suspicious behaviour, and 93% of teachers who go through a training system recognize the signs of abuse—because sometimes we don’t want to acknowledge it. And then 88% of teachers report that they’re more likely to talk to a child about a child’s sexual abuse after having some training. That is the key part of this legislation. The goals are there. Obviously, the intentions are good, but without the supports and the resources, as my colleague has pointed out, we may be setting up this law to fail and that’s my concern.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Further debate?
Ms. Christine Hogarth: I rise in support of this bill, otherwise known as Erin’s Law, debated today by my colleague the member for Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry.
Speaker, this bill, which would amend the Education Act, complements and strengthens all the measures this government is undertaking to make our communities and loved ones safer. We do so against a background of unprecedented acts of sexual abuse and exploitation in our province, particularly against young people.
Erin’s Law, as many of you will know, is inspired by the terrible story of Erin Merryn, who was sexually abused from the ages of six to eight by an adult neighbour. Her next abuser—a teenaged cousin—also threatened her to stay silent.
Today, Erin is campaigning across the United States to require public schools to use age-appropriate curricula to teach students how to handle, and report on, anyone who touches them inappropriately. This is a measure I fully support and I hope all members of this House do as well.
I would also like to acknowledge the Gatehouse, a globally recognized organization, based in my riding of Etobicoke–Lakeshore, that provides expert support and resources for individuals impacted by sexual abuse. I met with the leadership of the Gatehouse in July to learn more about what they do. In the course of these discussions, the Gatehouse offered their full support and counsel for the creation of Erin’s Law here in Ontario. I thank them again for their service.
Speaker, my colleague’s proposed Erin’s Law is consistent with other measures brought before this Legislature. For example, in June, I was honoured to submit a motion calling for the adoption, here in Ontario, of Clare’s Law. This, as you may recall, is a package of measures, first introduced in Great Britain, that would enable people in current or former intimate partner relationships to obtain from the police a potentially violent intimate partner’s prior record of abuse if the person asking for this information has reason to believe she or he is under threat.
I would also like to mark the advent of Keira’s Law, brought forward by my colleague from Oakville North–Burlington, both federally and here in Ontario, and the changes has it wrought in our justice system when it comes to cases of domestic violence and coercive control at both the federal and provincial levels, specifically as it relates to changing the way judges and justices of the peace are trained to deal with these appalling incidents in courts of law, and to weigh those factors accordingly when it comes to sentencing offenders.
Most recently, on September 20, our government announced an investment of more than $4 million across the province to help support victims and survivors of intimate partner and domestic violence, human trafficking and child exploitation. This funding is being delivered through the Victim Support Grant Program and includes $100,000 for the Support for Survivors program for 2023-24 for Toronto Police Services.
The Toronto Police Services will work with Support for Survivors, a partnership with Victim Services Toronto, to improve the capacity to better support victims of human trafficking and Internet child exploitation, as well as secondary victims such as their families. A trained crisis intervention counsellor will join TPS’s sex crimes unit, which is responsible for identifying and charging human trafficking and Internet child exploitation sex crimes.
So, I say to this House: The member for Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry is today laying down yet another marker toward a more innovative, responsive and effective approach to personal safety in our province as it relates to combatting abusive relationships—especially those victimizing young people. I fully support his thinking out of the box when it comes to policing, safe streets, stronger, healthier communities and protection for our most vulnerable.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Further debate? Further debate?
The member from Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry has two minutes to respond.
Mr. Nolan Quinn: I would like to thank all of the members for their important comments on this piece of legislation, but especially my colleagues from Etobicoke–Lakeshore, Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock and Thornhill.
I just wanted to clarify a few comments. Our education system does touch upon a lot of what Erin’s Law includes, but it’s not consistent from K to 12 and age-appropriate, so this is going to ensure that it’s taught every single year of the education curriculum and that we don’t miss any years in between. It’s also a three-pronged awareness approach that is not included currently with instructing and informing the parents about what signs to look for as well. We are very good on the human trafficking side of our education, but we are missing the prevention side.
This legislation is about protecting our children and empowering them to be safe. We all hear the term, “The children are our future.” Speaker, this is ensuring our children are set up to have the best possible future. Over the years, I’ve heard from many survivors of child sexual abuse from their perspective as adults. The one thing that has always resonated with me from every adult survivor is that they wished they would have spoken up sooner. Many felt isolated, alone and guilty. Erin’s Law is going to make sure that our children are safe and supported and know how to speak out.
As was mentioned earlier, 38 of 50 states in America have passed Erin’s Law. I know Erin will get it passed in all 50 states. Ontario will continue to be the leader in Canadian education by passing this legislation to protect and educate our children. We’ve had some recent legislation, whether it’s the mental health mandatory modules for grade 7, grade 8 and grade 10 passed by my colleague from—
Mrs. Robin Martin: Burlington.
Mr. Nolan Quinn: —Burlington, and updated food literacy. We’ve had Holocaust education and, just recently, Bill 98, the Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act was presented as legislation. But, Speaker, Erin’s Law is not sex ed; it is teaching kids personal body safety. It is making sure kids are taught safe and unsafe touching, as well as safe and unsafe secrets. Erin’s law will help stop child abuse if passed.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): The time for provided for private members’ public business has expired.
Mr. Quinn has moved second reading of Bill 123, An Act to amend the Education Act with respect to child sexual abuse prevention and reporting. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carries? Motion carried.
Second reading agreed to.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Pursuant to standing order 100(h), the bill is referred to the Committee of the Whole.
Mr. Nolan Quinn: I’d like to refer it to the Standing Committee on Social Policy, Speaker.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Patrice Barnes): Is the majority in favour of this bill being referred to the Standing Committee on Social Policy? Agreed. The bill is referred to the Standing Committee on Social Policy.
All matters relating to private members’ public business having been completed, this House stands adjourned until 10:15 on Thursday, August 5.
The House adjourned at 1827.