Amanda Todd's Anniversary Sees Canada's Anti-Bullying Efforts Engage Schools, Communities, Police

Article excerpt

Girl's death drives anti-bullying efforts

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VICTORIA - When Tad Milmine walks into a classroom, students don't know anything about him.

They don't know he's an RCMP officer. They don't know he's gay. They don't know he's been bullied and abused.

But within minutes, students know he's there for them, especially in their darkest, most vulnerable moments, Milmine said.

He speaks to them through the spirits of Ontario's Jamie Hubley, Nova Scotia's Rehtaeh Parsons and British Columbia's Amanda Todd -- all teen suicide victims mercilessly bullied by their peers before killing themselves. Todd died one year ago Thursday.

"I'm up there, just a guy named Tad," said the Surrey, B.C., RCMP officer during an off-duty interview. "That's how I get introduced. While I'm speaking they don't even know I'm a police officer until about halfway through."

Milmine said he started talking to students across Canada last October, at about the same time the country was emotionally shaken by Todd's suicide.

The 15-year-old, Grade 10 student from Port Coquitlam, B.C., posted a video detailing her anguish over the sustained harassment she endured at school and on the Internet about images of her body posted on the Internet.

At one point in Todd's video, which now has received over 28 million views, she holds up a handwritten note that says, "I have nobody. I need someone."

Milmine said he heard Todd's, Hubley's and Parsons's cries for help and decided to offer young people a safe, compassionate and non-judgmental place, creating his www.bullyingendshere.ca website that promises to respond quickly to every youth message.

"I could easily just make a video and send it out to every school, but that defeats the entire purpose of what I'm trying to do," he said. "I'm trying to be the person that I didn't have in school. The person to look up to, to talk to -- to be there."

Milmine said whenever he visits a school he expects messages that night from 10 per cent to 25 per cent of the students.

"It's a human being that they're messaging, that they know, they trust," he said. "That's why what I'm doing is absolutely exploding because the youth are responding by the thousands. I have so many emails, you'd be bawling, as I do when I'm reading these, thinking, 'Oh, my gosh, these are innocent kids.'"

Carol Todd, who met Milmine recently, said the one-year anniversary of her daughter's death falls on World Mental Health Day. Amanda Todd struggled with mental health issues, she said.

Todd said over the past year she's realized that confronting the issues of teen bullying and suicide goes beyond laws, websites and school programs. The issue requires constant vigilance by authorities, teachers, parents and young people themselves.

"The truth comes out, I guess, in the data and if the bullying aspects are indeed changing," she said. "But how do you measure that? Measurable versus non-measurable, how do we gather data to see if what we are implementing works?"

Todd said collecting data on teen suicide, bullying and cyberbullying represents only one piece of the complex puzzle to ultimately prevent young people from harassing their peers to the point where they give up and take their own lives.

The British Columbia Coroner's Service recently released a study of 91 youth suicides that recommended keeping records of the victims sexual orientation, their social media use and whether they experienced bullying in their lives.

"There has to be many approaches coming at this problem and that has to come from the community," said Todd. "It has to come from schools. It has to come from parental teaching. It's one problem, but we all have to target it like a community village. We have anti-bullying day. We have a pink-shirt day. Every day should be pink-shirt day."

Cyberbullying expert and Dalhousie University law professor Wayne MacKay said high-profile teen suicides connected to cyberbullying have spurred government action across Canada, but the issue stretches beyond government and law enforcement. …