Prevention strategy needed for bullied youth

A national anti-bullying prevention strategy is needed to educate young people of the lasting damage words and actions can have on a young person, says Toronto criminal lawyer Roots Gadhia.

Gadhia’s comments are in response to a case of cyber bullying that may have pushed B.C. teenager Amanda Todd to take her own life. On Monday, NDP MP Dany Morin introduced a motion aimed at building an all-party committee of MPs to study the prevalence of bullying and help build a framework for a national anti-bullying strategy, CTV News reports. Read CTV News

Canada does not presently have a national bullying prevention strategy, CTV reports.

“A bullying prevention strategy should be implemented in all schools regardless,” says Gadhia. “It’s been a problem since the beginning of time.”

While Gadhia says a strategy is clearly needed, she questions whether the behaviour should be criminalized.

“Criminal charges for bullying, especially over the Internet, will not only be difficult to prove, but I’m unsure how the offence could be worded,” she says. “How is it possible to make it an offence to write, text or post an insult and attack a reputation in a way that causes the victim harm themselves? Unlike a physical act, where you take your victim as you find them, how can you be convicted of knowing that your words or insults would cause your victim to react in such a way?”

Gadhia says criminal harassment provisions in the Criminal Code address unwanted contact and the extortion section deals with being threatened with the exposure of nude photos.

The issue becomes more complex, she says, because a bullied individual may not want to take legal measures for fear of being tormented further.

A prevention strategy is key, Gadhia says, noting that it must outline the criminal consequences of some of these actions.

“Educating young people and perhaps teachers and parents about what to look for might be some use as well,” says Gadhia. “Maybe if someone had been paying closer attention this young girl might still be with us today.”

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