Bullying has become the latest buzzword in our society and the latest point of frustration where Canadians are demanding the problem be addressed and eliminated. It’s a plague that has seeped into our schools and work place, and even used to describe the actions of governments and politicians.
There is no doubt that bullying is a problem that must be taken seriously. I’m sure we all have a collection of horror stories from our childhood, episodes from classrooms to playgrounds where we were picked on and victimized by other students for a range of reasons that made no sense to us.
I remember several examples of bullying I endured throughout elementary school at the hands of my classmates gleefully making fun of my name, skin colour and ethnicity. Being one of only a handful of South Asian students in a predominantly white school, I was an oddity in my class, seen as exotic and foreign. I internalized that racism and discrimination and did everything I could to fit in – going as far as ditching my lunch of fresh roti and rich curries for bland peanut butter and jam sandwiches.
However, my experiences never went beyond verbal attacks so I consider myself very lucky. But when you open up a newspaper and read about a young child who commits suicide because of bullying, it really breaks my heart. No child should fear for their own safety and security inside their class room or on the school yard. And no parent should ever have to deal with the tragedy and trauma of losing a child who felt there was no other option to escape the bullying than taking their own life.
Parliamentarians and politicians are starting to wake up and realizing that a national anti-bullying strategy is needed. In the last year, a significant increase in bullying has been recorded and the situation seems to be getting worse.
NDP MP Dany Morin (Chicoutimi-Le Fjord) has brought a motion into the House of Commons that provides for the creation of a special parliamentary committee to study the different forms of bullying, such as physical, verbal and cyber bullying. By consulting affected families and organizations that work with youth, the committee will focus on creating better anti-bullying strategies. Even on a provincial level in Ontario, legislation is being drafted to create strategies to protect victims and punish those who bully.
It’s a small step but it is in the right direction. Morin’s initiative is applauded by numerous groups that have worked for years to ensure that children and youth are able to live and grow in a safe environment. And we know that bullying goes well beyond the scope of political partisanship. The House of Commons must be able to prevent bullying by showing national leadership. This motion must be seen as the beginning of a Canada-wide discussion, and not just in Parliament. The message is that bullying is never acceptable.
Rupinder Kaur is the press secretary of New Democratic Party of Canada