One of Parliament’s youngest members is calling on the federal government to show “leadership” and pass an anti-bullying motion he introduced, scheduled for debate in Parliament on Monday, as the RCMP in B.C. investigates the circumstances surrounding the suicide of 15-year-old bullying victim Amanda Todd.
Dany Morin, the NDP LGBT critic and MP for Chicoutimi Le Fjord, speaks about an anti-bullying motion for a National Bullying Prevention Strategy during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday June 7, 2012. The motion will be debated in Parliament for the first time on Monday, October 15, 2012. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
In an interview airing on CBC Radio’s The House on Saturday, Dany Morin, a 26-year-old MP from Chicoutimi–Le Fjord, Que. and the NDP critic on LGBT issues, told guest-host Chris Hall members of Parliament must do their part to combat bullying — an issue, he says, has become a “nationwide problem.”
“Yes, I was bullied as a teenager,” said Morin. “But what struck me as really problematic is that since I got elected a year ago, I had to rise too many times in the House of Commons to note the suicide of a bullied youth.”
Todd, a teenager living in Port Coquitlam, B.C., killed herself last Wednesday, weeks after she posted a video on You Tube chronicling the impact years of online bullying and physical assaults at school had on her.
But as Morin points out, Todd’s suicide is one among others that have been directly linked to bullying.
For instance, Jenna Bowers, a 15-year-old teen from Nova Scotia, took her own life in January 2011 after suffering harassment both at school and online.
Suffering from muscular dystrophy, Mitchell Wilson, an 11-year-old boy from Pickering, Ont., said he was attacked while out for a walk. He was found dead in September 2011 with a plastic bag tied around his head. Wilson’s family said he committed suicide after learning he would have to face his alleged attacker in court.
Jamie Hubley, a 15-year-old gay teen from Ottawa, Ont., killed himself last October after years of suffering from depression over the bullying he experienced starting as early as in Grade 7.
Last December, Marjorie Raymond, a 15-year-old Quebec teenager, hung herself from her family’s garage. In a suicide note, she said she could no longer endure the taunting and teasing from her classmates.
According to BullyingCanada.ca, a national anti-bullying charitable organization, a study published in the medical Journal of Pediatrics found that about one in seven Canadian children aged 11 to 16 are victims of bullying.
Kerry-Lynne Findlay, a 57 -year-old mother of three, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, also knows first hand the impact online bullying can have on a child and their family.
Also in an interview with The House, Findlay told Hall her own daughter was the victim of cyberbullying. She received death threats over a social networking site from other girls she went to school with.
“One of the chilling results of that was how little empathy or sympathy we got from the parents of the other children who were involved in this, and I was very struck by it at the time,” said Findlay.
“We all recognize bullying is a tragedy. It shouldn’t be and doesn’t have to be a part of growing up, it’s not a right of passage,” said the Conservative MP from Delta-Richmond East, B.C.
While both Findlay and Morin agree on the need to combat bullying, how best to go about it remains the subject of debate.
National bullying prevention strategy
Morin’s motion calls for the creation of an all-party committee or as he called it, “a very non-partisan committee”, that would be directed to develop a national bullying prevention strategy.
While Findlay did not say how she would vote on Morin’s motion, she did say Conservatives “are looking forward to debating it” in the House of Commons on Monday.
Findlay said the federal government is “supporting provincial governments in their efforts to crack down on bullying, and trying to make our schools and communities safer places for children.”
The Conservative MP outlined the action taken by the federal government so far. “In 2011, this government funded 138 community-based crime prevention programs. When we talk about crime prevention we do include, not just trying to reach out to kids that are at risk, but we’re trying to prevent further victims [of bullying],” Findlay said.
The parliamentary secretary also noted that Conservative MP Harold Albrecht is sponsoring Bill C-300, a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act, which calls on the government “to develop a federal framework for suicide prevention in consultation with relevant non-governmental organizations, the relevant entity in each province and territory, as well as with relevant federal departments.”
The Senate Committee on Human Rights is also studying cyberbullying and is expected to report its findings by Oct.31, 2012.