A series of gatherings across Canada — and the world — are being held today to remember bullying victims, including the B.C. teen who committed suicide earlier this month.
Candlelight vigils, protests and moments of silence are planned for approximately 40 cities in Canada, the U.S., Malaysia and India, according to organizers.
Events were scheduled in several Canadian cities, including Truro, N.S., Halifax, Calgary, Edmonton and a large rally in Surrey, B.C., the home province of Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old from Port Coquitlam. The teen took her own life in her family home on Oct. 10 after posting a video on YouTube using cue cards to describe how she sank into depression while enduring years of online bullying, blackmail and physical assaults at school.
Her death has sparked an outpouring of sympathy on the internet, and has prompted calls for greater attention to the issue of bullying, particularly on the internet.
"Hundreds of people have just started to arrive, many of them dressed in pink, thinking about Amanda Todd," CBC's Chris Brown said Friday evening from the vigil in Surrey, B.C.
Lucky Gill is one of the founders of a new organization, Global Girl Power, which lists the cities taking part in Friday's memorials.
"We want kids around the community to know there is support available, there's organizations that can help them," Gill said. "It does not have to end like that."
Gill, who also organized the rally at Holland Park in Surrey, noted that the push to end bullying needs to be part of a broader effort. "I think this has to be an issue that is consistently discussed, and consistently something we work at ending," Gill said.
Taking anti-bullying action
As part of Friday's events to remember bullying victims, the 250,000 students and 40,000 staff with the Toronto District School Board — the country's largest — observed a minute of silence in the morning at 11 a.m. ET.
While the victims of bullying often suffer in silence, one Toronto school has had success with tackling a bullying problem and getting kids to speak out.
East Alternative School of Toronto's Grade 7 and Grade 8 classes attend regular anti-bullying workshops where students sit in randomly assigned spots in the cafeteria in order to break up cliques.
Cross Country Checkup: Cyberbullying
It's no surprise the story of Amanda Todd's suicide went viral. The surprise was the response. Some people hit back, both at her alleged tormentors … and at her.
This Sunday's Cross Country Checkup asks whether it is possible to control online bullying. Join an online chat Sunday 4 p.m. ET on the Cross Country Checkup website.
Students at the school can also report bullying anonymously, without fear of retribution.
"It's never just between one person and another," said Lynn Heath, the school's head teacher. "A bunch of people are involved, so witnesses know they can come to us and something will be done."
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Research, one in three adolescent students has reported being bullied.
In Nova Scotia, people carrying candles called for the Todd's tragic death to be a catalyst for change.
Friday's memorial gatherings come a day after police in London, Ont., reported that eight girls had been arrested for criminal harassment in connection with a bullying case at a city high school. They say an investigation revealed that a student was the target of physical, emotional and online bullying.
Police say information was received through direct statements and an anonymous reporting portal on the school's website.
A teenage boy in Toronto is also facing charges of child pornography distribution, extortion and making death threats after police say he tried to coerce a girl, using pictures she had sent him online, into sending him an intimate video of herself.