July 26, 2013 5:36 pm
Updated: July 26, 2013 9:16 pm

Redford announces new plan to tackle problem of bullying

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EDMONTON – Alberta Premier Alison Redford made a surprise announcement at the Premiers’ meeting in Ontario on Friday.

Amidst long discussions about energy resources and transportation, Redford announced she was creating a new associate minister to deal with violence, exploitation and bullying.

“I made the decision while sitting in the meeting today that we will appoint in our province – effective today – a new minister of family and community safety.”

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In her new role, the premier says Sandra Jansen – a Calgary-North West MLA – will make sure programming is in place across the board to protect kids from bullying.

“Because there have been a number of best practices right across the country, but to actually pull those pieces together in a way we can ensure has an impact on children today – immediately – is very important,” she said.

Over the past year, cyberbullying has been thrust into the spotlight in large part because of teens like B.C.’s Amanda Todd and Nova Scotia’s Reteah Parsons taking their own lives.

Nova Scotia’s premier Darrell Dexter emphasizes these are just a couple of the cases we’re aware of.

“There’s a long list of young people who have lost their lives as a result of bullying. And we don’t know the names of all of them. We know the names of the fewer high profile cases so there’s a responsibility for us to enact laws to protect these people.”

Provincial governments have made progress in recent months, with British Columbia unveiling an anonymous report-a-bully tip line, and Nova Scotia introducing cyberbullying legislation that would create the country’s first cyber-investigative unit.

“Quite frankly, it’s an area Alberta needs to put a finer point on addressing, using the energy and ideas from Albertans, and the resources from government to drive real solutions,” Redford said in a release.

“Sandra continues to be an advocate for families and communities and a strong voice for real, concrete, workable solutions. It is this passion and her ability to clearly connect with people that will serve her well in her new role.”

Jansen was first elected in April 2012 in the riding of Calgary-North West.

A former broadcaster, Jansen served as Redford’s communications manager for southern Alberta before running for office.

While Alberta’s Opposition leader Danielle Smith does acknowledge addressing bullying is very important, she does question the use of resources.

“I think we have to make sure we are watching the size of cabinet. They had a lot of fanfare that they were shrinking the size of cabinet, yet they keep on adding new associate ministers. So we’ll keep an eye on that as well.”

Associate ministers earn an extra $30,150 per year in salary.

Redford’s inner circle now includes 18 cabinet ministers including herself and nine associate ministers.

As an associate minister, Jansen will also address violence against women and sexual and child exploitation.

With files from The Canadian Press and Laurel Clark, Global News

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