A 14-year-old private school student on Montreal's South Shore who had been the victim of vicious bullying found classmates rallying to his aid after his story exploded on social media.
For months, the boy was the target of insults at school. He was ignored at lunchtime and overlooked as classmates formed groups for schoolwork.
He cried when he was at home alone, out of view of his classmates.
He finally confided in a Grade 10 student on the bus, who encouraged the younger boy to speak out about his experience.
Radio Canada reporter Gino Harel, who has followed the boy's story, said the 14-year-old poured out his heart on Facebook. To protect his identity, the student is known only as Mathieu in reports.
"I'm not asking for friends, but only to be respected," the Facebook entry reads.
"I'm making the choice to stand up and fight against this injustice. No one should have to go through this. It makes for a sad life."
Moving the message forward
The older student was touched by that plea and decided to take it further. He sent Mathieu's message to the administrators of the website ConneriesQc.com, a usually light-hearted meme-aggregate site that's popular with teens in Quebec.
Along with an editorial note denouncing bullying, the site published Mathieu's Facebook appeal on April 17.
The reaction was immediate. Young people starting sending in messages of encouragement and their own stories of being a bullying victim.
Within minutes, the entry had 1,000 "likes" — and even more shares and comments.
Swell of support
Mathieu was flooded with supportive messages from classmates, as well as some apologies for past treatment of the 14-year-old.
At school, the reaction snowballed. Mathieu was met with applause in the hallways.
"They hugged him they told him he was courageous to do this and that they were behind him," said Harel.
"This kid was overwhelmed by this welcoming."
Jacques Gravel, a vice-principal at the school, said there was plan in place to fight bullying, and the school tried to help Mathieu before he spoke out online, but without success.
"Young people have proven that, just as we're raising questions about social networks, there are smart ways they can be used," he said.
"As for Mathieu, he [said] that it was the best day of his life, that he was happy and excited."