Experts laud youth-led anti-bullying strategy
TORONTO – The federal government announced funding for the Red Cross that will help train 2,400 young people to deliver anti-bullying workshops in their communities across Canada.
Heritage Minister James Moore made the announcement alongside the prime minister’s wife Laureen Harper, and Allan Hubley, an Ottawa city councillor and father of James Hubley, a 15-year-old high school student who committed suicide in 2011 after years of bullying at A.Y. Jackson secondary school where the funding announcement was made Monday morning.
“If we do nothing it will lead to the death of children. Nothing will lead to the death of children,” Moore told reporters and students.
Moore said the Canadian Red Cross’s “Stand Up to Bullying and Discrimination in Canadian Communities” will get $250,000 in funding through Heritage Canada’s Youth Take Charge program.
The program will help train 2,400 young Canadians age 13 to 17 to deliver bullying prevention workshops. Each facilitator will commit to reaching out to at least 20 other kids.
“Today’s announcement answers our prayers and wishes to enable more people to receive this helping hand quickly,” said Councillor Hubley in a statement.
The investment is the first part in a two step approach to reaching 50,000 youth to help prevent bullying. The second step involves using three youth-led forums in the Atlantic Provinces, Ontario and British Columbia to help empower an additional 150 youth to fight bullying, according to a press release from Canadian Heritage.
“This is a good initiative. The reality is anti-bullying is all about education and awareness,” Eric Roher, an education lawyer who advises Ontario school boards, told Global News. “The more young people know about the effects bullying has — anxiety, depression, alienation — the more bullying can be prevented.”
Bullying in Canada is a widespread problem with 1 in 3 students reporting to have been bullied according to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, with 47 per cent of parents reporting to having a child who’s the victim of bullying.
Roher said that peer mentoring and peer mediation is one of the most effective forms of bullying prevention.
“The peer plays a critical role in encouraging or empowering the bully,” said Roher. “Canadian research shows that when a bystander intervenes or informs a teacher, in a very high number of instances the bullying stops.”
Jane Tallim, a co-executive director with MediaSmarts a non-profit organization focused on digital literacy, said the strength of this announcement is that it works with the Red Cross program to help engage youth.
“One of the things that we’ve learned from our research is that programs that being implemented aren’t working,” said Tallim. “The bullying assembly approach where youth are being talked at rather than engaging youth.”
As part of the funding announcement young Canadians will participate in workshops and receive mentoring from Canadian Red Cross members.
“It’s really about promoting young people as ambassadors within their culture to find solutions to bullying,” said Tallim.
While the announcement offers funding for bullying prevention, some believe it doesn’t go far enough.
It doesn’t offer any funding for the mental health aspect of the bullying problem said Roher.
“You cannot forget about the mental health impact, depression, and anxiety,” said Roher. “Counseling is critical for both the bully and the victim. What I hear from parents in Ontario is that there are long waitlists to see a counselor or social worker. We need greater funding for the mental health aspect.”
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