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; and that the committee consist of 12 members which shall include seven members from the government party, four members from the Official Opposition and one member from the Liberal Party, provided that the Chair shall be from the government party; that in addition to the Chair, there be one Vice-Chair from each of the opposition parties; that the committee have all of the powers of a Standing Committee as provided in the Standing Orders; that the members to serve on the said committee be appointed by the Whip of each party depositing with the Clerk of the House a list of his or her party’s members of the committee no later than five sitting days following the adoption of this motion; that the quorum of the special committee be seven members for any proceedings, provided that at least a member of the opposition and of the government party be present; that membership substitutions be permitted to be made from time to time, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2); and that the committee report its recommendations to this House within one year of the adoption of this motion.
Mr. Speaker, I am moving a motion to develop a national bullying prevention strategy. This is an issue that is very important to me. When I was elected a year and a half ago, I decided that my first bill or motion would be on bullying prevention. I rose in the House of Commons last winter to talk about the suicides of Jamie Hubley and Marjorie Raymond. Each time, I asked the Conservative government what it was going to do to protect our young people. The government responded with fine words, but a year later, there are still no concrete measures in place. That is why in June, I moved my own motion to create a special non-partisan committee of the House of Commons. I say non-partisan because we must put partisanship aside in order to truly address the problem of bullying here in Canada. It is a national problem that is getting worse, unfortunately.
I was bullied when I was young, but back then we did not have Facebook or social media. Unfortunately, social media has only made the problem worse. It is why we are seeing more tragic stories in the news about young Canadians who decide to take their own lives after being bullied. This is the perfect opportunity for all parties in the House of Commons to put partisanship aside and work together to develop a national bullying prevention strategy as outlined in my motion.
The first part of the motion seeks to study the prevalence and impact of different types of bullying in Canada's communities, including physical, verbal, indirect, such as rumours, and cyberbullying. Every type of bullying is different and comes with its own set of problems.
Once we have collected the research on bullying and determined whether or not more research is required, we can address the second part of the motion, which consists of examining international anti-bullying best practices and the measures that have been implemented across Canada. Some provinces have implemented good initiatives. We must see how the House of Commons and the Canadian government can support them. Other countries such as Finland, the United States and Sweden have also come up with interesting initiatives. The special committee should examine these international initiatives and determine which ones could be implemented in Canada. In 2012, bullying is a problem that exists not just in Canada, but in other countries as well.
In seeking solutions, we do not have to reinvent the wheel. Moreover, my motion is not a miracle solution to this problem. The provinces have introduced good initiatives. School boards and teachers are doing good work in our schools. But what is the federal government doing about cyberbullying? Bullying in schools comes under provincial jurisdiction, and the federal government must help the provinces and school boards to adequately protect our youth. However, cyberbullying comes under federal jurisdiction because it involves telecommunications. The government has various laws and regulations at its disposal to help it be proactive and lead the way. In my motion, leadership is key. In fact, it is important for all parties in the House of Commons to put partisanship aside and to work together for the well-being of our young people.
The third part involves giving Canadian families all of the good information that is found, since at the end of the day, they are the ones who have to deal with bullying. They may worry that their child could be the victim of bullying, or they may know that he or she is but not know what to do. Changing schools is not an ideal solution, but as I mentioned, there is no perfect solution. I think that it could be very helpful to give good information to Canadian families. The federal government must play a role in coordinating all this. It must support people who are working on the ground. It must help the provinces, school boards and parents. It can be a leader and engage people on this issue.
The fourth part involves supporting organizations, which are doing a good job and have experience on the ground. Their realities vary from one province to the next. A number of stakeholders, organizations and foundations have different expertise. I look forward to hearing what they have to say in committee. They will help flesh out my motion, which aims to create a national bullying prevention strategy. It is important to listen to them.
Furthermore, we must focus on prevention rather than criminalization. When a young person is bullied over a period of months and years, the damage is done. I am not saying that bullying should not be criminalized in some cases. It will be up to the non-partisan committee made up of Conservative, NDP and Liberal members to look at all of the possible options.
I was bullied from the age of 10 to the age of 15, so I know that punishing the bully or bullies—I had more than one—does not heal young people's scars. Over the past year, I was very sad to learn through the media of young victims of bullying who committed suicide. However, their deaths were not completely in vain since they made Canadians more aware of the fact that bullying must not be tolerated. This is not a normal stage in an adolescent's life. We also must not tell children that they just have to develop a thicker skin. That is not the solution.
I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the families and friends of the young Canadians who committed suicide this past year as a result of bullying. I have been working on this issue for a year, and I have felt sad about every case that has been covered by the national media; however, at the same time, I have also taken comfort from the fact that I am on the right path. The federal government must play a leadership role in this issue in order to save lives.
Mitchell Wilson was a young man from Ontario who had muscular dystrophy. He was 11 years old and he was being bullied. Unfortunately, he committed suicide at the age of 11 by tying a bag around his head. I am deeply shocked by these cases. The intent is not to point the finger at anyone. However, the federal and provincial governments, school boards and parents need to work together. We need to take action in order to resolve this problem or, at the very least, mitigate its effects.
Nova Scotian Jenna Bowers-Bryanton also committed suicide. She was being bullied on Facebook. She liked to sing, and bullies attacked her by posting on her YouTube account that she should kill herself because she did not have any talent. This was one of the factors in her suicide. The anniversary of Jamie Hubley's death is also approaching. He was a young man from Ottawa, Ontario. I remember that the Minister of Foreign Affairs was empathetic when I raised this issue in the House last year. This truly shows that all of Canada's communities and ridings—whether they be Conservative, Liberal, Bloc Québécois, Green Party or NDP—are affected by this problem.
Over the years, several members of the Conservative Party have used their time during statements by members to stand up for children who are being bullied. Both sides of the House of Commons feel a great deal of empathy regarding this issue. It is important to work together and put partisanship aside for the well-being of Canadian children. The highly publicized, high-profile cases have involved suicide, but most young Canadians who are being bullied do not get national media coverage. This is what concerns me the most.
Their everyday lives are a nightmare, while they suffer in silence. Their stories are never told, since many young people manage to get through this difficult stage.
I do not wish to dwell on my own personal experience, but it could provide some context. I started being bullied when I was 10 years old, but thank goodness, it only lasted until I was 15. I cannot take any credit, for I have no idea why the bullying stopped. I can only guess that the bullies finally grew up—and thank goodness they did.
Most mornings I went to school knowing that I could be bullied at any time between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. However, when I took the bus home in the afternoon, I knew I would be safe with my loving family. I knew I would have a break from the bullying over the weekend.
Nowadays, social media have both good and bad aspects. Young people bullied in cyberspace have to live 24/7 with the pressure, stress and suffering.
We have to do something, because these young people cannot get away from the bullying. It is relentless. I believe that is the reason why this type of bullying results in more suicides.
Establishing this non-partisan committee is a gesture of goodwill. I could have introduced the NDP anti-bullying strategy, but I know how this House works. It is important to me that we put partisanship aside. I do not want to wait three years to implement a national bullying prevention strategy. I believe that this gives us the perfect opportunity to take action.
I sincerely hope that we will be able to establish this special non-partisan committee and that its members will work together to develop a strategy that includes all of the good ideas presented.
I am convinced that my colleagues opposite have some good ideas that I have not thought of on how to protect youth. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, who will speak after me, has her heart in the right place.
This is not the end of the story. We will continue to fight for our young people.