Every year on December 6 Canadians wear white ribbons and observe a minute of silence to show their support for ending violence against women. The occasion, informally known as White Ribbon Day, marks the anniversary of the 1989 École Polytechnique Massacre, in which fourteen women were singled out for their gender and murdered.
While Canada has made important progress since that tragic day, we have a long way to go. In rates that are far higher than men, too many women continue to experience physical, psychological and sexual abuse.
These are no easy solutions to these complex issues, but Parliament will soon have a chance to take practical action on one part of the problem—cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is a powerful, relentless and insidious tool used by children and adults alike. There is no escape, no respite. Cyber-bullying follows you worldwide and over your lifetime, even after death, ruining careers and reputations as adults. As one cyber-bullied young student told me: “you have no place to run, no way to hide. Everyone knows. You feel trapped and cornered forever. Your life is ruined!”
Bullying by spreading false messages, criminal harassment and defamatory libel is already covered under the Criminal Code if it is done using print, telephone, television or radio—but not on the internet. I have a bill to correct that and extend protection to electronic media, a long overdue step. It will remove the anonymity that currently shields those who use the internet to do so by requiring disclosure from ISPs. This plan has been endorsed by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation and the Canadian Association of Police Boards.
Our children need this protection. Yet most of the Conservative Party shockingly voted against this bill at second reading. Their opposition is difficult to understand. Parliamentarians should be working together to strengthen action on bullying, not trying to stop it.
Please tell the Conservatives to vote for Bill C-273 when it comes back to the House and take a small, but important, step against the cyberbullying of our children. By doing so they will also be honouring the spirit of White Ribbon Day and helping protect women.
Dr. Hedy Fry, MP
Liberal Party of Canada