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Bullying at any age needs to be named

Are adults smart enough to listen?

By Carolyn Pogue

Billie Brown loves to dance, plays a wicked game of crokinole and counts among her friends a horse, a dove, dogs, cats, chickens and a ferret named Lilly Esther. She admits that sometimes she likes animals more than people because animals are not cruel.

Since I believe that adult behaviour is deteriorating (attack ads, for example) and because I believe kids are smart, I asked an expert about bullying. Billie Brown, 10, attends Dewdney Elementary School in Mission, B.C.

Like thousands of Canadian students, Billie is helping to make her school safer for everyone. She told me about kids all over the country who come up with creative ideas to end bullying. The Sea of Pink campaign is one such movement. “We have a day when all the kids wear a pink shirt. When I wear pink I’m thinking about that kid getting bullied and thinking that I don’t want my friends to be bullied. Some kids even cry when they hear the story. No one gets bullied at our school; we’re almost like family.”

Sea of Pink was started in Nova Scotia by David Shepherd and Travis Price. “They came up with the idea because a Grade 9 boy was picked on for wearing a pink shirt,” Billie explains. They bought 50 pink shirts and gave them to friends to wear in solidarity with the boy. Mainstream and social media grabbed the story; these days anyone can join the wave and wear pink on April 14th.

I’ll be watching to see if government leaders wear pink that day. I don’t hold much hope, though. Not for bullies who’ve been so busy cutting funding to justice-centred groups.

You likely know about the KAIROS funding cuts, and that the minister for International Co-operation (!) confused the House of Commons about how the decision was made. You likely know the prime minister defended her actions. You may not know that this cut joins a long list of others.

Norma Farquharson is a relentless, justice-loving human-rights advocate, who attends St. Laurence Anglican Church in Calgary. Recently Norma alerted me to the list of 31 women’s groups that have lost funding under the current government. These include the Canadian Childcare Federation, Native Women’s Association, Sisters in Spirit and the Status of Women. Why is there enough money to bail out businesses and banks, but not for justice work? The list of 31 is here: www.womensequality.ca

“If you see someone getting bullied and can’t stop it, you should get help,” Billie advises. I asked why she thinks adults become bullies. “Maybe they had a bad childhood, or they’re depressed. Maybe they have a lot of anger inside.”

“People shouldn’t think they can get away with it; it could turn around and they could get bullied back,” Billie says. “Treat others how you want to be treated.”

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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