Please read the following from the Ottawa Citizen… After reading please read my comments at the end.
At A.Y. Jackson Secondary School in Kanata, Heritage Minister James Moore announced the Canadian government would provide $250,000 in funding for a new national anti-bullying project.
“If we do nothing, it will lead to the death of children,” said Moore, whose riding in British Columbia is home to the late Amanda Todd.
The Canadian Red Cross will run the project, which is expected to have an impact on more than 50,000 young people across the country.
As part of the Stand Up to Bullying and Discrimination in Canadian Communities project, the Red Cross plans to train 2,400 teenagers ages 13 to 17 on how to deliver bullying prevention workshops and connect with their peers. After training, each teen will commit to reaching out to at least 20 others in his or her community to create a larger conversation about bullying.
The program will also host three youth-led forums, one each in British Columbia, Ontario and the Atlantic Region.
“You can see it spreading out like the red dots on a map,” said Dave Fraser, the director of social media with the Canadian Safe School Network, of the program’s impact.
He said he is happy to see a youth-led initiative as opposed to political slings and arrows over legislating bullying.
“Whenever there’s been an effort to introduce anti-bullying legislation, it’s been met with cumbersome debate,” he said.
A report released by UNICEF Canada in April ranked Canada twenty-first among 29 countries when it comes to the prevalence of bullied children. One-third of Canadian children have experienced bullying, said Lisa Wolff, UNICEF Canada’s director of domestic policy education.
“Over the last 10 years, the rate of bullying has not significantly declined,” she added.
Not everyone is convinced the new program is the answer.
Claire Crooks of the Centre for Prevention Science, part of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, said she is pleased to see an anti-bullying initiative that has young people at its helm and focuses on bullying both inside and outside of the school environment. But she has her reservations.
“I think that the challenge now is to not think this is the entire answer,” she said.
Crooks said that adults have to be engaged in the anti-bullying discussion just as much as their children: They need to watch their own behaviour, learn about their children’s social media use, and extend the anti-bullying conversation to community organizations that involve youth.
David Smith is also reticent about the program’s impact. The University of Ottawa education professor noted the government’s “modest investment” of a quarter-million dollars that boosted an already existing program, and the lack of evaluation of the program’s effectiveness as points of concerns.
Smith said he is still waiting on a national anti-bullying strategy that would engage multiple stakeholders and researchers to find solutions for Canada.
“In the big picture, it would be unrealistic to think this would have a significant impact on the bullying problem,” he said.