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Learning your ABC’s: Addressing Bullying in Canada

By in Opinions

If you’re a real human being, with human emotions, thoughts and feelings, you’ve probably either been the perpetrator of bullying, the victim of bullying or both.

Last week the federal NDP’s proposal to study and craft a national anti-bullying strategy was struck down in the Commons despite full Liberal support. It had only a mild peppering of Conservative supporters.

New Democrat Member of Parliament Dany Morin describes this result as a “missed opportunity to take a leadership role in the fight against bullying,” and I agree with him for the most part.

If a national policy against bullying was implemented it would demonstrate that as Canadians, we do not approve of — and will not stand for — bullying. This would be a good thing. It might mean that funding would be allocated to schools and other such institutions to hire individuals for the purposes of bullying prevention — “prevention” being the key word.

Teachers at all levels are overloaded and underpaid, and expecting them to deal with all the bullying in schools is unrealistic and unfair to everyone involved. Bullying rarely happens under the gaze of an authority figure. It happens at recess, after school or online.

Like the Conservative government, educational institutions for the most part focus on punishment rather than prevention. Suspensions and detentions don’t change the fundamental behaviours of an individual. Punishing the bully won’t actually help the victim either. There are deeply rooted issues when bullying takes place that cannot be superficially solved.

Perhaps with federal funding, institutions of all kinds would be able to move beyond simplistic “zero tolerance” policies to truly effective bullying prevention.

But would a federal policy truly make a difference? Would we see results in small-town Saskatchewan? Who knows what the federal policy would actually entail.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a national stand against bullying — and I’m a provincial and federal NDP voter to boot. However, I find myself asking, “Where does bullying start?”

As far as I’m concerned bullying starts at home, and could be solved and prevented at home. In its most fundamental form, it’s an issue between parents and children.

If parents bully their children, what do you think will happen? It’s a vicious cycle.

If parents don’t educate their children about bullying and consequences that stem from it, again, what do you think will happen? Ignorance can be dangerous.

Federal intervention and policy-making will do very little for children who cry themselves to sleep night after night, or adults who find themselves marginalized for being or doing something outside the norm.

Yes, a national bullying policy or strategy would look great on paper and reflect well in the media, but would it stop bullying?

We’d have to be seriously naïve to think so.

That bullying will end because of a national stand against it is something I want to believe, but I’m too pragmatic to fall for such malarkey.

While bullying is, I’m sure, primarily an issue in elementary and high school scenarios, it doesn’t simply disappear once graduation hits in grade 12. Bullies can attack anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Indeed, if you’ve bullied someone before, chances are you’ll do it again; if you’ve been the victim of bullying before, the hell that you went through is sure to re-occur.

I can’t help but think about the recent Amanda Todd case and I’d argue that the push for a national anti-bullying strategy has stemmed from this high-profile tragedy. Why is it that a tragedy must take place before anyone takes action?

The sad truth is that bullying has always existed; it’s only gotten more pervasive with the invention of the Internet. Now we can bully in person, via text or online. If you want to make someone feel bad about him or herself, there is a plethora of ways to do so.

Again, implementing a national anti-bullying strategy is nice in theory, but continuing to study bullying in all its forms won’t save the lives of children and teens like Amanda Todd in the interim.

In case I’ve been unclear, let me reiterate: as Canadians, we should take a national stand against bullying. But perpetuating an idealistic “zero tolerance policy” simply isn’t enough.

There’s a lot more work to be done. Bullying needs to be an issue that gains the attention of municipalities, provincial governments and — most importantly — parents.

I’m sure the federal government will eventually pass a policy on anti-bullying but, in the meantime, who’s going to help those who are victimized by bullies in online or real life situations?

We are the answer. If you have the drive to make someone feel bad about him or herself through manipulation, physical or emotional abuse, or blackmail, ask yourself, “Why?”

Stop bullying when you see it and encourage others to do the same.

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