Verbal Abuse Prevention Week in the spotlight thanks to Islander
Tami Martell says her daughter was taunted, teased and made fun of on a daily basis
A mother of six from Milltown Cross, P.E.I., is calling on premiers and education ministers across the country to mark Verbal Abuse Prevention Week in the hopes of tackling bullying.
Tami Martell, who has started Verbal Abuse Prevention Canada as a not-for-profit group based on P.E.I., wants provincial officials to take action.
"It raises awareness in the province and allows people to go, 'Oh maybe we should discuss this,' whether it be in organizations of schools or in the community," Martell told CBC News.
Martell's anti-bullying crusade started in September 1998 with a walk across Prince Edward Island.
She spoke at schools along the route about the verbal abuse that her daughter had suffered from Grades 1 to 5.
"Taunting, teasing, making fun of on a daily basis for roughly four years," Martell said.
"It's devastating for the child and it was extremely frustrating for us as parents … I believe at that time you were told that your child was too sensitive or it builds backbone or it toughens them up. And obviously that's not the case. We know that today."
Martell said she was called "a tad overzealous" and told she couldn't effect change because she was "just a mom."
"Then people started to talk," she said. "It literally went right across the country."
'Anything we do is a positive'
In 2001, P.E.I. became the first province to mark Verbal Abuse Prevention Week, which takes place in the first full week of October.
Three P.E.I. communities — Montague, Georgetown and Kensington — have all partnered with Verbal Abuse Prevention Canada.
Saskatchewan, Quebec, Yukon, Newfoundland and B.C. have so far declined to join the organization, saying they already have anti-bullying programs in place that also prevent verbal abuse.
Martell said she's "a little frustrated" but is still hoping to get her message out across Canada.
"Anything we do is a positive, and if it saves a child who maybe normally wouldn't go to a parent or go to a counsellor in a school or to a teacher to say, 'Look this is what's happening,' then we just might be able to save that one child."
She plans to spend the next few months recruiting board members and finding someone to help set up a website.
"Yes, this is an organization, it's not just me," Martell said. "That way we can present information as a legitimate entity. And that's what we needed to do. That was the natural next step."