Locals react to national anti-bullying motion 0
Portage-Lisgar MP Candice Bergen. (File photo)
A day after NDP MP Dany Morin tabled a motion to form another committee as part of a revised national anti-bullying strategy, the proposal has come up as a topic of discussion for local officials and educators in Portage la Prairie.
Morin's motion came after Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old from B.C. who made national headlines when she made a nine-minute video detailing how she was bullied by her peers, killed herself last Wednesday.
Mass outcry from the public and professionals in the education and health field re-ignited the debate for a national plan to deal with bullying.
Candice Bergen, MP of Portage-Lisgar, responded positively to the call for a new committee to be formed, however questioned it as a necessity because of two existing committees already analyzing the situation.
"We support the spirit of the bill and the role that the federal government can play," said Bergen.
"We just announced in September, a $10-million investment as part of our crime prevention strategy. Under those applications we're asking for groups specifically to combat bullying. There are things that we're doing with Health Canada, the RCMP and other important groups.
"We currently have two committees right now in this Parliament that are studying various types of bullying. One is in the Senate and it's very specific while the other one is going to be looked at in the justice committee — it's about cyber bullying."
What's more, Bergen said that a national strategy doesn't have same impact as it would on a local level.
"I think when it comes to bullying and kids on social media, we've got to be really careful when we start to talk about criminalizing that. I think we're better off to approach it as an educational thing: parents monitoring, teaching their kids and knowing what they're doing on Facebook. I think that's the better way than criminalizing," said Bergen.
With a healthy scope of services and information already provided to correlate with local efforts, Bergen said that personal responsibility and local efforts will suffice until the two committees studying the issue release a series of recommendations.
"Each school and local community really knows what they're kids may be vulnerable to and they're the best ones to come up with programs and formulate plans," said Bergen.
"The most effective way to stop bullying is at home where parents teach and model kindness, and show compassion to their children. The next best level is certainly at school and I believe in community-based, home-based, and school-based solutions."
Back in February, the Province of Manitoba added another $300,000 in new funding over the next three years in a partnership with former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy.
The initiative is an online program that helps support educators to understand and respond to incidents of bullying, abuse, harassment and neglect.
The investment marked the implementation of the program province-wide but it's been a fixture in the Portage School Division for a few years, said Mike Mauws, assistant superintendent of the PSD.
The overall investment is part of the Crime Prevention Action Fund, a Canadian program which has funded more than 138 community-based projects across the nation. However, here in Portage, schools are taking their own approach to dealing with issues of bullying.
The Respect Program has made a difference in Portage schools such as La Verendrye School, where the program has helped to curb bullying incidents over the last five years, said Chuck Naish, principal at LVS.
The school has an assembly once a month to discuss to remember of issues on the subject as Naish said, "we teach things about empathy, respect and tolerance."
PCI is another school in the Portage area that has many programs beyond the Respect initiative.
Sources of Strength, the Harmony Project - a component of the Respect program - and the Suicide Prevention Program all programs run locally at the high school to combat against bullying.
They also connect with the Portage RCMP a couple times a year as well.
Still, principal Gregg Waldvogel admitted that social media has heightened the issue of bullying and while programs help to mitigate issues, the school still deals with its fair share of cases
Mauws added that the influence of social media is inevitable but backed Bergen's stance of dealing with it on a local level through programs already available at the Portage School Division.
"It's made it more of a challenge with social media. The idea that once something is out there, it's out there forever is a piece that teenagers aren't really aware of."
"We've been having servicing and information on the issue for years now. We have policies on bullying as well. It's in the forefront of our school and it's something that we're all working towards for years now," said Mauws.
Do you think the Feds are doing enough to combat bullying in Canadian communities?