On the day she would have turned 16, a community reached out to change the course for others and be a shoulder to lean on in a time of need.
Many throughout Canada, already know the tragic story of Amanda Todd. The young Port Coquitlam, B.C., girl committed suicide shy of her 16th birthday after rounds of bullying from peers both in person and online.
Sadly she, like many, felt the only answer was to seek refuge through ending her life, leaving behind more questions than answers.
News of her death and the videos recorded by Todd have re-aired on numerous news organizations, garnering international attention and raising concern once again for the very real threat many teens face through cyberbullying.
The Internet and social media are often considered tools for connecting those who may feel disconnected with others in their community or school, but the reality as well is it allows for the repercussions of bullying to be longer lasting and more widespread as in the case of Todd.
The end result often is a very dark place for a teen where they feel isolated and alone, turning to the one place that has become their refuge only to sink further.
Her community of Port Coquitlam, a city not unlike ours, decided to turn the corner and take action, hoping to change the tide of bullying and hoping one day it would help even one person realize that it gets better.
Enter the launch of their "Be Someone" campaign, it allows communities to adapt their move to change legislation and education around bullying and cyberbullying to tailor fit the program to any city or school.
It increases education on the issues and even in the case of Port Coquitlam allows for anti-bullying strategies to become a civic bylaw as in the case of Regina or Edmonton, where similar steps have been taken.
The campaign ramped up its efforts this past week as it launched to the public. It shows the true stretch of their community as businesses, schools and civic leaderships have bought into the campaign to allow the city to become a safe haven for those being bullied, with the namesake of the organization drawing from the final words in Todd’s message — "I have nobody, I need someone."
It brings together many in the community who have very similar interests to those right here in Brandon.
I have seen the effects first-hand having spent close to eight years working in the school system in Brandon and the threat of cyberbullying in our community is very real, it happens daily and as a parent like many parents fear for my children as they age that they would feel the same traps bullying allows for.
Manitoba school divisions have strategies for addressing bullying and the provincial government has even stepped into the fray by increasing education on the issue by way of implementation in the school system.
It is an adequate first step on the issue, but as I have seen in schools it may not be enough to change the tide, it merely allows for the ability to educate students and parents on the effect, sadly as in the case of Todd, often too late.
To truly change the tide, we need a full buy-in and that includes implementation of bylaws at a civic level or legislation as is the case in Regina, Edmonton and now Port Coquitlam.
I’m realistic in the fact that it does take time to educate on the issue and realize the system cannot become bogged down in the weight of policing activity, but through implementing guidelines at a community level and working with the policing strategies on an idea like the "Be Someone" campaign locally could help the overall education process exponentially and allow for a greater sense of a community raising a child.
It is not about measures to create "watchdogs" for the Internet as some have argued legislation like Bill C-30 would provide but allowing for learning opportunities for youth, parents and community members alike.
It is a first step; it takes us a bit closer to a goal. I now challenge us as a community to take action on changing the tide from both a civic leadership level and as a citizen with regards to assisting our youth in this way.
It is all about education as a community, having a proactive strategy and talking with youth about what is going on in their life.
Who knows, a small reach from our community may be just the hand someone needs to feel they’ve turned the corner.
» Shaun Cameron is a lifelong Brandon resident. He has dabbled in politics and is now chair of Renaissance Brandon, the city’s downtown development corporation. His column appears regularly.