The idea of anti-bullying legislation is one whose time has come and in fact, is long overdue.
Far too frequently, the media carries stories of young people taking their lives or attempting to do so to escape the constant harassment of bullies. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Every day in our schools and on the Internet many are subjected to this abuse, not always on a scale that would result in a tragic ending, but nonetheless making life miserable for them.
It's a serious problem and one, at least on Prince Edward Island that has gone unaddressed by elected officials, until now.
Summerside Councillor Tina Mundy, chairwoman of the city’s police services committee, wants the city to work on a municipal anti-bullying bylaw to help deal with the issue.
An anti-bullying bylaw would define bullying and outline specific protocols and processes that would address incidents of bullying.
It would also include guidelines for enforcement and consequences for the behaviour. The proposed bylaw would provide a guideline for educators, parents, and students of what is and what is not acceptable behaviour.
Alberta and Saskatchewan and B.C. currently have anti-bullying bylaws that can actually levy a fine of anywhere from $100 - $2,000 to the bully or anyone who may witness the bullying and do nothing. Halifax is currently investigating a similar bylaw.
The idea is a good one but whether an anti-bullying bylaw is enforceable at the municipal level on Prince Edward Island is not clear. Provincial legislation could be the way to go but nothing has happened at that level of government. Even if it would require provincial legislation to be enforceable, implementing the bylaw at the municipal level would at the very least be an effective way of raising awareness and educating residents about this issue.
That’s what makes Mundy’s proposal important. It it brings the question to the public forum and does so on a grassroots level.
Politicians are more likely to respond when their constituents rally behind a cause.
Other communities across the Island should follow Summerside’s lead and lend their support to the idea by proposing their own anti-bullying bylaws.
Local groups, such as Generation XX, the Boys and Girls Club of Summerside, YMCA, the Community Safety and Crime Prevention Committee, home and school associations, any group or organization that deals with youth should back the proposed bylaw.
But the bylaw is not just for the protection of youth.
Bullying happens at all ages. It can occur in the home, in the workplace, on the streets. Anyone at anytime can become a victim of bullying. An anti-bullying bylaw is a bylaw for all ages.