Anti-bullying bylaw in Saskatoon gets mixed reviews

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WATCH ABOVE: Saskatoon city council will be asked to get tough on bullies next week. Leena Latafat takes a look at the proposed anti-bullying bylaw and why it may be difficult to enforce – Mar 18, 2016

SASKATOON – Does Saskatoon need an anti-bullying bylaw? Merle Montgrand, a bullying victim’s mother, says she’s thrilled to hear about the idea and confident other parents will be too.

If passed, the city could penalize anyone who causes another person harm, fear or psychological distress. Publicly taunting, name calling, ridiculing and even gossiping could be illegal.

“She keeps everything to herself and if I tell her you’re supposed to tell your teacher, they tell her, you’re tattle tailing,” said Montgrand.

Montgrand’s daughter eventually asked to be home-schooled. She says this bylaw will help in ways teachers and school staff can’t.

READ MORE: Toronto police officer working tirelessly to put an end to bullying

Ward 3 Coun. Ann Iwanchuk has been an advocate of the idea for years now. She says her phone has been ringing all day, with many parents ecstatic about what this could mean for their kids.

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“We have all kinds of laws to protect people. We have occupational health and safety laws, we have anti-harassment laws. But really we have nothing to protect our kids and they’re the most vulnerable,” she said.

Iwanchuk says the bylaw would be complaint driven and only those over the age of 12 would be fined. A first offence would be $300 and fines for repeated instances could range from $300 to $2,500. The bylaw will be discussed at city council’s meeting Monday.

“How do you do that? How do you define that? It’s the same thing with a lot of well-intentioned policies. When someone comes forward and says I’ve been bullied. Well how do you prove that?” said David Dion, a University of Saskatchewan student.

“Personally I think it’s going a little bit too far that the city has to get involved,” said Ann-Marie Dale, another university student.

A report by the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada calls similar bylaws a “rush to legislate.” It highlights, “The law may provide a supporting context but it cannot regulate and repair school yard relationships.”

In response, Iwanchuk said, “If those root causes were being addressed, we wouldn’t be talking about a bylaw.”

If approved, the bylaw will be effective this September.