WATCH ABOVE: Carolyn Luhning from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary and bullying victim Shannon Borynsky join Global Calgary with details on Pink Shirt Day.
EDMONTON — You may see a lot of people wearing pink on Wednesday or find the hashtag #PinkShirtDay popping up frequently on social media. Canadians are being urged to don pink shirts on February 25 as part of an anti-bullying campaign called “Pink Shirt Day.”
For some people, pink is considered a feminine colour – but some students decided to do their best to break that stereotype. Pink Shirt Day started in 2007, when two Nova Scotia high school students organized a school protest to wear the colour pink to take a stand for a grade 9 boy and fellow classmate, who was bullied for wearing a pink coloured t-shirt to school.
The movement was later carried out to other major cities. The campaign is now in its eighth year, and bullying continues to be a major problem in schools, workplaces, homes, and over the Internet.
Every seven minutes someone is bullied on a playground in Canada, according to bullying.org. In fact, a recent survey found cyberbullying surpassed drugs and alcohol as the top concern among Canadian parents.
Alberta mother Betty Wedman knows all too well the impacts of bullying; her 17-year-old son, Alex, took his own life after years of being bullied by several classmates.
“Students came up to my son at his locker and they started punching him in the face. And this incident was captured on video and posted to YouTube, which I feel as a mother, other students could enjoy Alex’s humiliation over and over again,” said Wedman.
WATCH: Schools in Edmonton were flooded with pink today, as students and staff took a stand against bullying. Su-Ling Goh has more.
Alex was shy, which Wedman believes may have made him a target because he wouldn’t tell on the other students. Wedman says she continues to talk publicly about her son’s death to raise awareness in hopes of helping others.
“We have to be more willing to share our experiences with others because really, I know that my son is not the only person that was going through this,” she said.
“I think he felt hopeless. I really thought he thought things wouldn’t change for him and I wish he would have thought differently.”
Bullying is nothing new. A new Angus Reid online poll found that three in four Canadian adults said they were bullied while in school, while nearly half of the parents polled said their kids have been bullied at some point.
WATCH: Edmonton Police Service’s video on cyber bullying and how youth can get help.
Meanwhile a University of Guelph Bullying Study found that 50 per cent of Canadian school children report being bullied, with 45 per cent of surveyed children feeling unsafe when they go to school.
Bullying comes in many forms, including but not limited to verbal attacks, physical violence, threats and intimidation. Boys typically engage in more physical forms of bullying; girls tend to do in indirect ways, such as gossiping , excluding and by using passive aggressive behaviour.
No matter the form, the intent is to make someone else feel bad on purpose. Bullying is demoralizing, lowers self-esteem and has led to shootings and suicides in Canada.
The deaths of Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons are just two high-profile examples of bullied teens who felt they had no other option.
But awareness and education can help Canadians take a stand against bullying. Several Edmonton Catholic Schools are encouraging staff and students to wear pink, and holding activities to mark the day.
Safe and Caring, The Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, ATB Financial, Government of Alberta and community advocates are encouraging Albertans to don pink.
Here’s a list of Pink Shirt Day events happening across Alberta:
- The High Level Bridge will be lit up pink
- ATB Financial’s Edmonton Corporate Headquarters will be lighted pink to honour the day. The bank is encouraging its employees to wear pink on Wednesday – as it Shaw, the parent company of Global News.
- Denny’s is celebrating with its customers by giving a free order of pancake puppies to anyone who comes in wearing a pink shirt.
- London Drugs is selling pink shirts in support of Boys and Girls Clubs across western Canada.
- Safe and Caring and Government of Alberta came together to produce the infographic below.