As Canadians debate the right response to a case of cyber bullying that may have pushed B.C. teenager Amanda Todd to take her own life, lawmakers will consider a private members bill that seeks to lay the groundwork for a national bullying prevention strategy in the House of Commons Monday. But the father of a teen who took his own life because of bullying says it’s time for action, not another study.
NDP MP Dany Morin will introduce the bill aimed at building an all-party committee of MPs to study the prevalence of bullying and help build a framework for a national anti-bullying strategy.
Canada does not presently have a national bullying prevention strategy.
Morin’s bill will be introduced just a few days after Todd was found dead in her Port Coquitlam home Wednesday. Police say suicide was the cause of death and the RCMP are currently investigating the case.
Todd, 15, posted a video to YouTube in early September in which she described her pain and suffering as a long-time victim of bullying, much of it through online social media.
Her death has prompted calls for stronger action against bullying, including B.C. Premier Christy Clark who said Friday that it may be time to consider criminalizing such behaviour online.
But Morin told CTV’s Question Period that his bill does not seek criminalization of bullying. The MP, who admitted to being bullied during his teen years, said criminalization is not the answer.
“I was bullied as a teenager,” he said in an interview Sunday.
“I know firsthand what bullying really is like. But when the harm has been done, when a kid has been bullied for years, bringing the criminal charges to the bully will not solve the problem. The harm has been done. That’s why I want the special committee to focus on prevention.”
Morin’s bill calls for the study of the scope of bullying in Canada, as well as increased funding and support for organizations that work to prevent it.
But Ottawa city councillor Allan Hubley said that the problems posed by bullying demand action and not more study.
Hubley lost his own teen son to suicide in October 2011, and says the time and money spent debating and studying the issue would be better spent investing in the front line resources which help teens at risk of suicide.
“There is a time for action now, instead of another study or anything like that,” he said. “We have a definition of bullying. We already know a lot of the resources that can help bullying. But the frontline resources that will help these kids when they need it most, at that moment they’re about to make that decision, they are underfunded. That’s where we need to put our energies and our efforts.”
Hubley’s son, Jamie, committed suicide at the age of 15. Jamie, who was openly gay, was bullied for years and fought depression.
Hubley, who is preparing to mark the first anniversary of his son’s death, said he believes it will take the involvement of the entire community to stop bullying, and not legislation alone.
“It’s time for the community to take responsibility and everyone get involved and say ‘Enough, no more bullying,’” he said. “We need everybody to be willing to help each other and respect each other.”
Hubley believes that, much like drinking and driving, once society attaches a stigma to bullying it will cease to be popular or a “cool thing” to do.
“We as a society have to say ‘We are all going to do our part to stop this,’” he said.
During the interview, Hubley wore a unicorn pin on his lapel in memory of his son.
“Jamie said that he wanted to be remembered as a unicorn, different on the outside, but beautiful on the inside,” he said. “So I wear my unicorn to remember my boy. Everything I’m doing is for him.”