Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join this evening’s debate. I enjoyed my hon. colleague’s speech. I know that there were other speeches made the last time the bill was debated in this House. All members in this House agree that it is important to combat cyberbullying.
I would also like to thank my hon. colleague from Vancouver Centre for introducing this bill in the House. This is an important issue in every region of the country.
It is somewhat ironic that we are speaking about cyberbullying legislation on the day that the Ontario legislature passed Bill C-13, the provincial government’s anti-bullying legislation. Of course, there are fundamental differences between these two pieces of legislation. Bill C-273 is certainly not as controversial as the Ontario bill seems to be, but it is an extremely important piece of legislation on an extremely important issue. Bill C-273 would clarify the existing law in the Criminal Code as it applies to cyberbullying by amending the code.
This issue affects many families in Nova Scotia, as well as in other provinces and territories. There are way too many examples of it. Who of us has not experienced or witnessed bullying when we were in school ourselves? When I was in school, we certainly did not have the added concern of being exposed to bullying on the Internet with people talking anonymously about us and posting disturbing pictures. There are many things that happen today.
I heard from a parent in my riding whose daughter has been bullied since last October. The incidents started in school, there were incidents in class that were addressed by the school, but then they continued in the hallway. Kids would giggle as she walked by and so forth. The impact on this child, of what may seem to us as not that serious as adults, was truly tragic.
For instance, she does not want to go to school now. She refuses to go, if members can imagine. She is obviously very unhappy. She is at home and angry about the situation she is in. This is a case where bullying has affected the entire family. Her parent feels the pain of not being able to help or protect her daughter and her siblings have to deal with her behaviour.
It is clear that teenagers, at the most difficult time in life in many ways, find this kind of abuse difficult if not impossible to ignore and very hard to cope with. Since we have all been teenagers, I think we all have a pretty good idea of what that sort of thing feels like and what a difficult and emotional time it can be.
Despite the impact it was having on her at the time, the daughter did not tell anyone. She did not want to tell anyone that she was being bullied because she did not think that there was anything that could be done about it. She was afraid that telling would make it worse. She perceived that she would be with those kids for the rest of the year, spending a lot of time around the children who were bullying her, and the fact that they would have been told to stop or punished in some way would not have had any long-term effect in helping her.
We have had other examples of this in Nova Scotia, unfortunately, and some have been well publicized.
There was a young woman named Jenna Bowers-Bryanton of Nova Scotia who took her own life on January 17 of last year after being harassed at school and through a social networking site.
In recent weeks, if members can imagine, a person on Facebook has purported to be a leader of a group called Libya Torial, whatever that is supposed to be, that allegedly drove three Nova Scotia girls to kill themselves. It is hard to imagine that anyone would want to claim credit for that, to say that they are the group that bullied these poor kids to the point where things were so awful for them that they wanted to kill themselves.
All of us, whether as parents, parliamentarians or individuals of society kind of want to say to a young person, especially a teenager who is going through that kind of difficult time, “No matter how hard it gets, you can handle it, and no matter had bad it gets, it will get better”. Those are two very important messages that we have to give to young people. However, they are not the answer. That is not how we address the problem. It is just one small step to try to support the person who is going through this kind of difficulty.
Another person from Nova Scotia who was targeted was Courtney Brown, who very sadly committed suicide. In Ontario, in June of last year, there was a 16-year-old girl who was violently attacked at school by two other girls while another student videotaped the attack and later posted it on YouTube. That is just awful.
Bullying is why a young fellow, Travis Price of Nova Scotia, founded the Pink Shirt Day, after a fellow student was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school. Thank goodness that does not happen to us here because lots of us like to wear pink shirts. They look good. Interestingly, I heard a presentation from a folklorist in Nova Scotia, Clary Croft, who is an expert in costume and clothing over the centuries. He talked about how a hundred years or so ago when pink first came into public awareness, it was a man’s colour and blue was considered a woman’s colour. My colleague from Winnipeg North says it still is.
Travis was so concerned about seeing the bullying, he started Pink Shirt Day, this movement across the country where one day each year kids in schools wear pink shirts to say they are against bullying.
It is important that all of us as adults, and everyone in society, say that bullying is wrong. We need to send a message to people who are perpetrators, whether in a moment of dislike, on the Internet when they are anonymous at home and are able to put something up very quickly, or whether it is more deliberate. We want to say to people that this is wrong and they should think about what they are doing and the pain they are causing.
One of the things about the Internet is that so often the perpetrator does not see the impact of what is happening. We know one of the values, for instance, of healing circles, which the aboriginals in our country have used for so long, is that the person who has committed some harmful act is forced to confront the person who has been harmed by it and to consider the impact. That is why restorative justice has been very valuable.
The problem here is that sometimes it is impossible to identify the perpetrator because there are websites where they can post things anonymously. With YouTube they can use a false name, or they can impersonate someone. In fact, they can impersonate the person they are bullying. That is a form of bullying.
This is not easy, but it is very important that governments do what they can to address this, that we enable police to get access to information about who is doing what. I am not endorsing what we have heard before from the Minister of Public Safety, but I think we all recognize that there is a need to take measures to try to stop this kind of thing.
We have a case in Nova Scotia where a young person was bullied, on Facebook I believe it was. That person is going to ask the court that his or her name remain confidential when the bully is sued. I know the media does not like that. Some members of the media have actually opposed this request. I understand their reasoning. However, in a case like this when we consider the harm of cyberbullying, it is important to protect that person as much as possible and not compound it. How else are they going to have an answer to this?
Mr. Speaker, I see you rising, which tells me I am at the end of my time. However, I want to congratulate my colleague for Vancouver Centre for bringing forward this bill on this important issue. I look forward to supporting it.