British Columbia

Amanda Todd’s anti-bullying legacy, 1 year on

Thursday marks one year since the death of Amanda Todd, the 15-year-old girl who committed suicide after posting a video describing how she was tormented by bullies.

Teenager killed herself after years of bullying online and in school

Amanda Todd was 15 years old when she committed suicide in October 2012 after years of bullying at school and online. (Submitted by the Todd family)

Thursday marks one year after the death of Amanda Todd, the 15-year-old girl who committed suicide after posting a YouTube video describing how she was tormented by bullies.

The video and Todd’s death shocked the world after it emerged that her depression stemmed from being convinced to expose herself online.

The Port Coquitlam, B.C., girl was blackmailed and tormented online and at school for years. She moved schools several times over the years but couldn’t escape the bullies.

Todd’s family have spent the past year raising awareness about mental health issues. World Mental Health Day falls on the same day Todd committed suicide.

"It's bittersweet the events fall on the same day. But it has given me an avenue to channel my sadness," said Todd’s mother Carol.

Memorials and vigils were held around the world for Todd, and awareness of online bullying and the problems it creates is at an all-time high.

Legacy fund

In January this year, five-time world boxing champion Evander Holyfield came to Vancouver to throw his support behind the Amanda Todd Legacy Fund.

The fund aims to raise money for anti-bullying education and for support programs to help young people with mental health problems.

It has given me an avenue to channel my sadness.— Carol Todd, Amanda's mother, speaking on World Mental Health Day

In May, Carol Todd attended a cyberbullying forum in Winnipeg with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the families of other teenagers whose deaths have cast a spotlight on the issue.

The meeting was also attended by the family of 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons. The Nova Scotia teen died following a suicide attempt, almost two years after allegedly being sexually assaulted by four boys.

Rehtaeh Parsons, 17, killed herself in April 2013, after being bullied over an alleged sexual assault. (CBC)
Parsons was said to have been mocked by classmates, enduring harassment and humiliation after a photo of the alleged attack was circulated in her school and on social media.

Like Todd, Parsons and her story sparked international attention, and in August 2013, Nova Scotia enacted a law allowing victims to seek protection from cyberbullying and to sue the perpetrator.

In Halifax, a city councillor is proposing to give police the power to issue tickets for bullying.

ERASE program

No similar legal moves have been made in British Columbia, but in June last year Premier Christy Clark launched a $2-million, 10-point strategy to combat bullying.

The ERASE program — Expect Respect and A Safe Education — allows students to report bullying anonymously on a smartphone application, and puts dedicated safe-school co-ordinators in every school district

Despite these moves, bullying still plagues classrooms and social media.

RCMP Const. Tad Milmine speaks to thousands of high school students a month.

Students can use the ERASE Bullying app to anonymously report bullying at B.C. schools (B.C. Ministry of Education)

"My advice to youth is always to go to a trusted adult, but you have to tell them everything. It may take a few conversations, may take a few visits, but you have to tell them everything."

Police continue to investigate the circumstances that led up to the deaths of Todd and Parsons.

No charges have yet been laid in relation to Todd's case, though police are considering possible criminal harassment.

In the Parsons case, two teenage boys have been charged — one faces charges of creating and distributing child pornography and the other faces two child porn distribution charges.

In recognition of World Mental Health Day, people are being asked to wear purple, while BC Place and Science World will shine bright with the colour.