Education and patience are the keys to creating a kinder society that denounces bullying – not criminal law, says Toronto criminal lawyer J.S. Vijaya.
“There can be adjustments made to the moral compass of most people,” Vijaya says. “Will these adjustments effectively address all situations and all types of psychological bullying? I think not.
On the other hand, not doing anything is also not the answer.”
The recent high-profile death of a B.C. teen has prompted a debate in Ottawa over the creation of a national anti-bullying strategy, the Globe and Mail reports. Read Globe and Mail
Amanda Todd, 15, killed herself several weeks after she posted a YouTube video describing the relentless bullying she had endured, the report says.
NDP MP Dany Morin has since asked the House of Commons to study different types of bullying, including the growing problem of cyberbullying, and share best practices with Canadians as part of a national strategy.
Vijaya says while Todd’s death was tragic, historically speaking, “political and legal decisions made while emotions are running high are not wise.”
He says it’s not responsible to let individual tragedies dictate public or social policies in a free and democratic society, but notes bullying is a serious problem that must be addressed.
The difficulty in criminalizing bullying has to do with defining the term, Vijaya says.
“We already have laws that address threatening behaviour and criminal harassment,” he says, adding that for schoolyard name-calling, it would be tough to determine at what level police should get involved. “Should these mean people be charged criminally and further clog up the criminal justice system where the prosecutors are busy prosecuting crimes like rape, murder, discharging firearms, and more?”
Vijaya says through long-term studies and a reasoned and balanced approach, improvements can be made.
“I don’t think we can criminalize unkind mean words or behaviours,” he says. “In my view, those who engage others in that manner should not be facing criminal sanctions. I think a bullying prevention strategy will be a more effective solution over time.”
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