In response to the suicide of teenager and British Columbian Amanda Todd last year, who suffered from physical and online bullying and sexual torment, provinces across the country have acted to strengthen anti-bullying laws. However, the definition of what is “bullying” has not been uniform, and while some critics suggest that the definition is too vague, others question if the new laws will have any effect at all on bullying.
What are the definitions? Ontario’s law, passed last year, defines bullying as causing, or intending to cause, physical or emotional harm, causing damage to another student’s property, placing that pupil in reasonable fear of harm, or creating a hostile environment at school. Quebec defines bullying to mean repeated direct or indirect behaviour involving a power imbalance, which causes distress and “injures, hurts, oppresses, intimidates or ostracizes.”
Manitoba Bill 18’s definition of bullying is so broad, that a single intent to cause hurt feelings may be caught under the definition. Bill 18 defines bullying as behaviour that is “intended to cause, or should be known to cause, fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other forms of harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem, reputation or property.” Education minister Nancy Allan says this broad definition is deliberate. “We really wanted to make sure that we captured, in the definition … negative intent. We’re very comfortable with this definition,” says Allan.
On the other side, Opposition Progressive Conservatives argue that this broad definition could make a bully out of any student, teacher, or staff. Education critic Kelvin Goertzen says such a broad definition runs the risk of either not being enforced, or being enforced in an arbitrary way. Furthermore, the proposed law does not require principals to hand down specific penalties. It does not even require principals to report the incidents of bullying to parents or other authorities, which renders the bill’s effectiveness questionable.
For the full article from The Vancouver Sun: