Bullying issue demands provincial, federal response - group

A Tri-Cities group dealing with court and youth justice issues wants more consistent policies dealing with bullying in schools and the workplace and is calling on provincial and federal attorney generals to take action.

The Tri-Cities Family Court and Youth Justice Committee wants B.C. to implement a safe schools policy and amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act and the Criminal Code to include bullying and cyberbullying.

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The group also wants consistent standards for identifying different kinds of bullying, and a process for measuring the severity and consequences. Restorative justice could also be used to deal with bullying under the Criminal Code, the group says, so that those who cause harm can makes amends to their victims.

"Restorative justice has to be looked at as a legal and legitimate approach to dealing with bullying," said chair Joan Isaacs.

CERA (Communities Embracing Restorative Action) in the Tri-Cities has already achieved success using restorative justice to deal with less serious youth crimes, said Isaacs, and she said the approach could work well for bullying. Instead of labeling people as "bullies" it's better to intervene so they understand the effect of their actions, at the same time the victim is helped because they get to air their concerns and get some redress.

"It's a very efficient and effective approach and it should be used more often," Isaacs said.

The recommendations come out of a recent a series of workshops in the Tri-Cities in which members heard a variety of concerns from community members about bullying in schools and the workplace.

Cyberbullying was identified as a particular concern because it's difficult to monitor and mean comments, insults, sharing of inappropriate photos, and taunting have become ubiquitous on social media, and parents, schools and police aren't always aware of what's happening.

Isaacs said her group wants a province-wide Safe School Policy and guidelines, and more tools for dealing with bullying and cyberbullying in school and workplace settings.

"We found that people who were experiencing bullying were having different experiences with schools. We kind of wondered: 'why doesn't everybody have the same experience," Isaacs said.

The group researched how provinces deal with bullying and took a closer look at the criminal code and youth justice act and found gaps. They members have since sent the report to justice officials, MLAs, MPs and School District 43 administrators in hopes of promoting changes.

For more information, the report can be requested via email at tricities.jfcyic@tmail.com or viewed on CERA'S website here.

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