RCMP will have new powers in dealing with bullying behaviour in Port Coquitlam in a new program to provide support and resources for bullies and their victims.
Named Be Someone, the campaign developed by Port Coquitlam business leader Gary Mauris with the support of PoCo mayor Greg Moore will provide B.C.'s first anti-bullying bylaw.
Moore told community leaders and students at the campaign launch at Riverside secondary Tuesday that the bylaw will be modeled after similar legislation used in Alberta and Saskatchewan. It will create a $200 fine for bullying behavior, but more importantly, will provide bullies an opportunity to take an approved course. If they take the course, the ticket will be "ripped up," Moore said.
"We're going to stand up and say bullying won't be tolerated," Moore said.
PoCo city council is expected to vote on the bylaw on Dec. 10.
At the event, dozens of students, parents, politicians and community representatives, including Amanda Todd's mother Carol, wore pink t-shirts with the words I Am Someone and held up signs in support.
Moore said the campaign was pulled together in four weeks with Mauris at the helm, and said the speed at which it was developed showed the passion and commitment of business and community leaders in doing something to stop bullying behavior.
Mauris, president and founder of Dominion Lending Centres, told the crowd he was inspired to act by the final card in Amanda Todd's video, in which she stated she was alone and needed someone.
Calling bullying an "insidious problem," Mauris acknowledged that Todd, the PoCo youth who committed suicide, would have celebrated her 16th birthday the day of the campaign launch.
But he said the campaign - which will include a web portal, a community awareness campaign, education for parents, text messaging for bullied teens in crisis, an anti-bullying bylaw and a Snowflake fundraising walk to raise money for future initiatives - is not just about Todd but to prevent other teens from committing suicide.
He said in the last year, four teens in the city had killed themselves, prompting the need for more resources to support youth and stop bullying. "We want to make it cool not to turn a blind eye," Mauris said, as he encouraged members of the community and other businesses to get involved.
One way for people to show their support is to post an "I am someone" sticker in their business window or public facility. Mauris also said the entire program can be imported to any city that wishes to take a stand against bullying.
Youth will have other ways to connect, as well, such as the new text message platform, which will hook up them up to professionals at the Kids Help Phone line (kidshelpphone.ca). But instead of using the phone, teens can used text messaging to talk about their issues.
Riverside students interviewed by The News said they appreciated the commitment and hoped the program would take root. Chantal Cardoso and Anika Green said they've been taught how to recognize bullying behaviour in a program called Beyond the Hurt, but said it's important not to stigmatize bullies or victims.