Premier Jean Charest called for an end to bullying, Sunday morning, in a press conference at the Taz skate park to announce new measures promoting awareness and action on the issue.
The initiatives include an anti-bullying law and $1 million annually for the next three years toward a media campaign and university research on bullying.
“Young people in Quebec have been victims of intimidation, whatever the form,” Charest said. “The announcement we’re making today is under the theme of mobilization. It’s a call to all: to remind us of our respective responsibilities; to reaffirm our desire to fight a phenomenon that some will say has always existed; but which we will no longer tolerate.”
He was flanked by three ministers: Vice-Premier and Minister of Education, Sports and Leisure Line Beauchamp; Minister of Public Security Robert Dutil; and Minister of Health and Social Services Yves Bolduc.
Anti-bullying legislation will be tabled this week in the National Assembly, Beauchamp said, explaining that rules stipulate she cannot reveal details about a proposed law before going through the details of it with her fellow MNAs.
“Beyond intentions, (the law) confirms our obligation to fight bullying and to help the kids who are victims, as well as the perpetrators of bullying.”
The planned media campaign begins this week, she said, and includes TV ads in French and English as well as a website (irightthewrong.com) with information and guidelines on how to deal with bullying.
The new initiatives expand on a $17 million provincial anti-bullying campaign launched in 2008. Beauchamp confirmed that the government will continue to contribute $6 million in annual funds to help prevent bullying in Quebec schools.
The current campaign’s slogan is “L’intimidation, c’est fini. Moi, j’agis,” or, in English, “Bullying – it’s so over. I right the wrong.”
A Declaration of Support for Quebecers Against Bullying and Violence was presented, and signed by Charest, who encouraged everyone to do the same as a show of solidarity and engagement toward the cause. (The declaration is available on the above-noted website.)
Beauchamp spoke of creating an anti-bullying week around Oct. 2, which is non-violence day, while noting that Sunday’s initiatives came at the end of suicide prevention week and the beginning of scholastic perseverance week.
She cited the November suicide of 15-year-old Marjorie Raymond as a recent example of the tragic effects of bullying. Stopping it is everyone’s job, she emphasized:
“Nine times out of 10, bullying happens in front of an audience, whether it’s in person or on the Internet. If someone steps in, two times out of three the bully stops. So it’s important not to be silent. This campaign calls on students, parents and teachers to do their part so that it ends.”
Cyber-bullying was cited as an important area of focus, which will be covered under the new law.
“The law will define bullying, be it cyber-bullying or bullying through actions or written words intended to hurt or threaten,” Beauchamp said.
The law will call for agreements to be signed between schools, social services and police outlining procedures to deal with bullying.
Charest was evasive regarding questions as to whether the timing of the announcement had anything to do with rumours of an impending election.
“I’m here today because this is something that’s very important for all Quebecers,” he said. “This is really an appeal to say it’s not just a school thing. It concerns everyone. I’m a parent. If everyone recognizes their role and contributes, we will live in a society that is filled with respect, and that is a society that Quebecers want to live in.
“This is an occasion that the Premier of Quebec couldn’t and didn’t want to miss – that I didn’t want to miss, to do my part.”