Openly gay New Democratic member of Parliament Dany Morin knows firsthand the damaging effects bullying can have on youth.
As the NDP’s deputy critic for queer issues, Morin has tabled a motion in the House of Commons in the hope of establishing a national anti-bullying strategy.
Morin’s motion specifically calls for the creation of a special committee to address what he sees as a nationwide problem, with an emphasis on bullying prevention.
At a press conference held on Thursday June 7, Morin pointed out that bullying isn’t relegated to the school yard. Aggressive taunting by students takes place in the streets, on the internet and close to home.
“The sad reality is that every seven seconds, a kid in Canada is being bullied. Since I became an MP a year ago, unfortunately, at least five kids committed suicide due to bullying.”
Morin was joined by three victims of bullying, who spoke eloquently of the effects high school harassment has had on their lives.
John McCrae Secondary School student and Jer’s Vision co-op student Madison Lyle-Hayward said that her blossoming body caused her less-developed friends to turn against her.
Lyle-Hayward began to have self-esteem issues, which then developed into depression and an eating disorder. The student directly linked the bullying she suffered to her psychological problems.
“I am still in the process of recovery and have hope,” Lyle-Hayward says. “I wonder what impact the bullying would have had on me if the government had done something sooner about it. They could have protected me at school and showed me that it wasn’t me who was wrong.”
Faye C Estrella now works with Jer’s Vision; however, before they found acceptance with the youth diversity initiative, ze says, ze was bullied for an unconventional appearance, the music ze listened to and the literature ze adored.
“For a long time I just took it. Maybe I have a superpower where I collect new nicknames,” Estrella laughs.
After enduring years of bullying, Estrella turned the tables and became the tormentor. A late-night confrontation at a park changed this bully’s ways.
“[The boy at the park] started calling me a freak and asking if I was a boy or a girl. That was the moment I had to make a decision,” Estrella says.
“I walked up to him and his friends and I started telling them my story. The craziest thing happened; they listened, they cried when I cried. I asked them to apologize and they did. That was the night I realized there is another way. We can unlearn bully culture, we can stop it, and we can change it. We need the government to take more of a stance.”
The stance of gay and lesbian advocacy group Egale Canada is one of solidarity. Executive director Helen Kennedy says Morin’s motion rightfully encourages the government to take a leadership position on adolescent bullying for the well-being of future Canadian students.
“We fully support MP Morin’s efforts to address and combat all forms of bullying. Egale has always fought to create a Canada that allows every person to achieve their full potential,” Kennedy says.
Morin says that the motion shows great potential and that some Conservative cabinet ministers have expressed their support. The motion will be officially addressed in the House when Parliament resumes in the fall.