Bullying prevention is at the top of MP Dany Morin’s agenda and he is travelling across Canada to prove it.
“Several provinces have put forth good initiatives,” said Morin, representing Chicoutimi-LeFjord, Que. “I think it’s amazing, if you ask me.”
Morin is on a national tour for his Pour les Jeunes/For the Kids campaign that helps persuade MPs to vote for his National Bullying Prevention strategy. This campaign is to keep the momentum going since the strategy defeat in 2011.
“(This is) so Canadian parents and kids can use it to fight bullying,” Morin said. It’s still a growing problem and I think we’ve reached a breaking point.”
Morin needed just six more votes from Conservatives to give his strategy the green light it needed to move forward.
Now Morin says he has to wait four years before he can bring it back to Parliament. In the meantime, his national tour brought him to Weston Collegiate Institute Tuesday, Jan. 15 to hear about anti-bullying programs and initiatives happening in schools in York South-Weston riding.
York Humber High School (a special needs school), Chaminade College, St. Fidelis Catholic School as well as the students of Weston C.I. shared what their school is doing to combat bullying.
The issues candidly discussed among the group included the culture of what’s become known as snitching.
“We’re more into preventing and creating awareness and trying to get the stigma of snitching away from reporting an incident,” said youth worker Margaret Dovigo of Chaminade, an all-boys high school.
To help with the culture of silence at her school, Dovigo has a page on the school’s website called “report a bully”, where students can make an anonymous complaint against a bully.
This issue is apparent in each of the schools in attendance and students as well as the vice-principal of York Humber urged others to not give the bully any power because it allows him or her to strike again.
Each school discussed its way of reducing bullying: Chaminade has the Working Against Violence Everyday program (WAVE), which has a peer-to-peer approach, while St. Fidelis had Feathers Against Bullying, where each student wrote a message of hope on a feather to put on a giant dove.
However, Dovigo still thinks schools could be doing more throughout the school year. “Focusing on bullying for one week a year is not enough,” she said.
Another issue at hand was cyber-bullying, an act that falls under federal jurisdiction. The rise of cyber-bullying has increased significantly with social media integrating more and more into the lives of students.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2009 the most common form of cyber-bullying was done through receiving emails or instant messages and was reported by 73 per cent of victims.
“I was lucky when I was young,” said Morin. “Yes, I was bullied 9 to 5 and it was horrible, but when I got home I had the warmth and love of my family. The weekend was my safe haven. Kids can’t just log off bullying these days.”
StatsCan also reported the most common form of cyber-bullying is done through receiving emails or instant messages and that 71 per cent of the victims bullied online are female.
But that’s not to say bullying still doesn’t happen among boys.
“Some of the Grade 9s are bullied, their locks are reversed, called niners, or made fun of because they’re shorter. A lot of verbal bullying goes on,” said Dovigo.
York South-Weston NDP MP Mike Sullivan was “very impressed” with what schools are doing to combat bullying.
“These students are changing Canada’s mentality about bullying,” said Sullivan of the progress being made.
“These kids have taken it on themselves as a group to be preventative and not reactionary. The kids get it. They understand now what is expected of them. It’s not OK to be bullied, it’s not OK to be afraid of the repercussions of what you say or do because you might be bullied afterwards.”
He hopes that bullying will soon be considered as socially unacceptable as impaired driving is today. But in order to do that, Morin said all the pieces of the puzzle need to be in place.
“The two actors missing in action is the federal government and the parents,” said Morin.
“And not to blame them, but if they’re not aware of the problem how can they become part of the solution?”