Saskatoon city councillors have opted to send Saskatoon's proposed anti-bullying bylaw back to city administration for more review and consultation.
For the first time on Monday, civic lawmakers publicly debated the merits and the shortfalls of the controversial bylaw.
As things turned out, it didn't find much support.
When the discussion was over, councillors asked the city's administration to consult with school board trustees to make sure the bylaw is something they want in Saskatoon schools.
Gossip, rumour-mongering would be part of proposed bylaw
The proposed bylaw defines bullying as any unprovoked, repeated and inappropriate comment or action intended to cause harm, fear or distress. It specifically includes such things as name-calling, pushing and gossiping or rumour-mongering.
A first offence could result in a fine of up to $300. After that, the fine could climb to $2,500, although the charge could be dealt with by court-approved mediation.
Children under the age of 12 would be exempt from the bylaw.
Councillor concerned about wording
Before Monday's meeting some city councillors started voicing their concerns about the proposed law.
"Not only do I think the wording is off, I don't hear from the community or our partners, a call for this type of action by the City of Saskatoon," Coun. Zach Jeffries said.
Jeffries doesn't believe the law would be easy to enforce.
"Is this going to have a positive impact? Is this going to work? And my analysis on both those fronts is no," he said. "So, I will not be supporting it, and I've heard that a number of my colleagues won't be supporting it either."
Other city councillors have also spoken out against the bylaw on Twitter.
@theotherHilary Yes I share that view.— @mairinloewen
Bullying in Saskatoon is common, parents say
At Monday's city council meeting there was widespread agreement among councillors and members of the public that more action is needed to stop bullying, particularly in schools.
But there was stark disagreement on whether an anti-bullying bylaw is the right solution.
When speaking to council, Michelle Krieg gave a heart-wrenching account of the bullying that drove her daughter to commit suicide just five days before her 17th birthday.
"And here's my thing, my daughter's story is not unique," Krieg told council. "I have talked to other parents whose children's experience with relational aggression has mimicked our own. The depression, the anxiety, the suicide ideation, the addiction. When I hear people mocking this bylaw I am filled with both anger and disbelief."
Janelle Pewapsconias, a member of the Saskatoon Coordinating Committee Against Police Violence, said both she and her four-year-old son experienced bullying. But she argued a city bylaw is not the answer.
"Existing federal and provincial anti-bullying legislation as well as criminal and civic laws provide enough legal protection for the bullied," Pewapsconias said. "Saskatoon school boards have also expressed that they already have tools and safeguards in place to address bullying in schools, and additional municipal regulation is simply unnecessary and an overkill."