Aggressive name-calling between students. Withholding food from a live-in parent. Harassing a teen online. Sending demeaning emails about a co-worker. Preventing a spouse from accessing a joint bank account.
Unfortunately, these are all real instances of bullying that have happened in Chestermere.
“We know that bullying is on the rise,” says Chestermere Mayor Marshall Chalmers. “We hear regular examples of bullying between all ages and demographics. City Council is determined to do something to prevent it if possible and prosecute if necessary. Bullying has no place in our community.”
To address this ongoing issue, City Council held a mobile Council meeting at a local school in Chestermere today. Students in attendance lined up through the gym to ask questions about a proposed anti-bullying bylaw and to indicate their support for its adoption.
“It was very impactful to hear stories of bullying that these students had experienced. We all deserve to live in a community free from hurtful behavior and we are determined to ensure our community is a peaceful and safe place for all,” says Mayor Chalmers.
Following discussion, Chestermere Council passed 1st reading of the legislation.
Although young people are often the target of peer to peer bullying, Chestermere City Council recognizes that bullying can affect anyone.
The bylaw, developed in consultation with Dare to Care Calgary (an anti-bullying organization), adopts a broad definition of bullying as the intentional, repeated and hostile or demeaning behavior by an individual or group where the behaviour results in physical, emotional or mental fear or distress to one or more individuals based on factors including (but not limited to) ability, race, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation or identity.
Currently, there exists a gap in how to respond to complaints of bullying – schools offer education and the RCMP can lay criminal charges but there is little in between. The new bylaw intends to equip Peace Officers with a variety of response options.
“The bylaw provides us with the ability to address bullying in a variety of ways including requiring a letter of apology, mandating anti-bullying training or imposing fines,” says Peace Officer Sergeant Trever Bowman. “These provisions will offer the offender an opportunity to learn about the impact their behavior has on others.”
Several other communities have had anti-bullying bylaws for some time and have used it to address bullying behavior. Chestermere’s bylaw builds on others’ and is a combination of education, engagement and enforcement.
For those who are experiencing bullying, there is support available through a variety of resources.
If you feel in immediate danger, call 911. A Bullying Helpline (1-888-456-2323) also provides support in more than 170 languages. If you would like to talk to someone locally, Chestermere’s Community Resource Centre staff are also available for conversations and can connect residents with more resources.
Local Resources to report bullying:
- Emergencies: 9-1-1
- Chestermere RCMP (Non-Emergency Complaint Line): 403-204-8900
- Chestermere Peace Officers: email@example.com / 403-207-7058
- Community Resource Centre: firstname.lastname@example.org / 403-207-7050 ext. 7079
Other resources available to anyone being bullied include:
· Bullying Helpline: 1-888-456-2323. Visit https://www.alberta.ca/bullying-find-supports.aspx to chat anonymously.
· Kids Help Phone: 1-800-387-KIDS (5437) for help 24/7. Text CONNECT to 686868.
· Family Violence Info Line: 310-1818 to get help anonymously 24/7 in more than 170 languages.
· Alberta Provincial Abuse Helpline: 1-855-4HELPAB (1-855-443-5722) for assistance in more than 100 languages from 7:30 am to 8 pm, Monday to Friday.
· Protection for Persons in Care reporting line: 1-888-357-9339 to report the abuse of an adult receiving care or support services from public funded service providers.
To read the bylaw, visit www.chestermere.ca/agendas
Public consultation on the bylaw is welcome at www.chestermereconversations.ca for the next several weeks. It is anticipated that the bylaw will be brought back for 2nd and 3rd reading on June 18, prior to the end of the school year.