One of Parliament's youngest members is calling on the federal government to show "leadership" and pass an anti-bullying motion he introduced, scheduled for debate in Parliament on Monday, as the RCMP in B.C. investigates the circumstances surrounding the suicide of 15-year-old bullying victim Amanda Todd.
In an interview airing on CBC Radio's The House on Saturday, Dany Morin, a 26-year-old MP from Chicoutimi–Le Fjord, Que. and the NDP critic on LGBT issues, told guest-host Chris Hall members of Parliament must do their part to combat bullying – an issue, he says, has become a "nationwide problem."
"Yes, I was bullied as a teenager," said Morin. "But what struck me as really problematic is that since I got elected a year ago, I had to rise too many times in the House of Commons to note the suicide of a bullied youth."
Todd, a teenager living in Port Coquitlam, B.C., killed herself last Wednesday, weeks after she posted a video on You Tube chronicling the impact years of online bullying and physical assaults at school had on her.
'We all recognize bullying is a tragedy. It shouldn't be and doesn't have to be a part of growing up, it's not a right of passage.'—Kerry-Lynne Findlay, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice
But as Morin points out, Todd's suicide is one among others that have been directly linked to bullying.
For instance, Jenna Bowers, a 15-year-old teen from Nova Scotia, took her own life in January 2011 after suffering harassment both at school and online.
Suffering from muscular dystrophy, Mitchell Wilson, an 11-year-old boy from Pickering, Ont., said he was attacked while out for a walk. He was found dead in September 2011 with a plastic bag tied around his head. Wilson's family said he committed suicide after learning he would have to face his alleged attacker in court.
Jamie Hubley, a 15-year-old gay teen from Ottawa, Ont., killed himself last Oct. 15 after years of suffering from depression over the bullying he experienced starting as early as in Grade 7.
Last December, Marjorie Raymond, a 15-year-old Quebec teenager, hung herself from her family's garage. In a suicide note, she said she could no longer endure the taunting and teasing from her classmates.
Read an excerpt from NDP MP Dany Morin's anti-bullying motion, M-385:
That, given that bullying is a serious problem affecting Canadian communities, a special committee of the House be appointed and directed to develop a National Bullying Prevention Strategy to:
(a) study the prevalence and impact of different types of bullying, including physical, verbal, indirect and cyber bullying;
(b) identify and adopt a range of evidence-based anti-bullying best practices;
(c) promote and disseminate anti-bullying information to Canadian families through a variety of mediums;
(d) provide support for organizations that work with young people to promote positive and safe environments;
e) focus on prevention rather than criminalization
According to BullyingCanada.ca, a national anti-bullying charitable organization, a study published in the medical Journal of Pediatrics found that about one in seven Canadian children aged 11 to 16 are victims of bullying.
Kerry-Lynne Findlay, a 57 -year-old mother of three, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, also knows first hand the impact online bullying can have on a child and their family.
Also in an interview with The House, Findlay told Hall her own daughter was the victim of cyberbullying. She received death threats over a social networking site from other girls she went to school with.
"One of the chilling results of that was how little empathy or sympathy we got from the parents of the other children who were involved in this, and I was very struck by it at the time," said Findlay.
"We all recognize bullying is a tragedy. It shouldn't be and doesn't have to be a part of growing up, it's not a rite of passage," said the Conservative MP from Delta-Richmond East, B.C.
While both Findlay and Morin agree on the need to combat bullying, how best to go about it remains the subject of debate among politicians and parents of bullying victims alike.
"We have enough studies'
Morin's motion calls for the creation of an all-party committee or as he called it, "a very non-partisan committee", that would be directed to develop a national bullying prevention strategy.
The anti-bullying strategy would focus on five areas: studying the prevalence and impact of bullying including cyberbullying, pinpointing the best anti-bullying practices, distributing anti-bullying information, providing support for those groups who help young people, and focusing on prevention rather than criminalization.
But Allan Hubley, the father of Jamie Hubley who killed himself a year ago on Monday, told CBC News on Sunday that he would prefer to see more money going to those who are providing front line services to combat bullying rather than another committee or study on the issue.
"I thank the MP that is bringing forward a motion to study the issue more but with all due respect, I think we have enough studies," said Hubley who serves as an Ottawa city councillor.
"What we need is action now. If there's money available, we should find a way to get that in to the front-line troops. We have to get the money out to the people that are helping the kids and adults to find the help they need. Where it matters most, where it can make a difference," Hubley said.
Findlay said the federal government is "supporting provincial governments in their efforts to crack down on bullying, and trying to make our schools and communities safer places for children."
The Conservative MP outlined the action taken by the federal government so far. "In 2011, this government funded 138 community-based crime prevention programs. When we talk about crime prevention we do include, not just trying to reach out to kids that are at risk, but we're trying to prevent further victims [of bullying]," Findlay said.
The parliamentary secretary also noted that Conservative MP Harold Albrecht is sponsoring Bill C-300, titled an Act respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention, which calls on the government "to develop a federal framework for suicide prevention in consultation with relevant non-governmental organizations, the relevant entity in each province and territory, as well as with relevant federal departments."
Two parliamentary committees are specifically studying the issue of bullying.
Liberal MP Hedy Fry also introduced private member's Bill C-273, titled an Act to amend the Criminal Code (cyberbullying), which has been referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights after the second reading in the House of Commons.
And the Senate Committee on Human Rights has been hearing from witnesses on the subject of cyberbullying since December 2011 and is expected to report its findings by Oct.31, 2012.
While Findlay did not say how she would vote on Morin's motion, she did say Conservatives "are looking forward to debating it" in the House of Commons on Monday.
Morin's motion, if adopted, would constitute an instruction to the House. Under the parameters in the motion, the committee would have to be struck within five days of its adoption, and would report its findings within a year.