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Saskatoon votes for further review of anti-bullying bylaw

Jan 18, 2017, 09:15:07
By Matt Young, CTVNews.ca Staff , CTVNews
Published Monday, March 21, 2016 9:19AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 21, 2016 8:56PM EDT

Saskatoon city council has voted for further review of a proposed bylaw that would outlaw bullying in any public place.

The proposed bylaw, which was presented at city council on Monday, defines bullying as an unprovoked, repeated and inappropriate comment or action intended to cause harm or fear, and specifically includes name-calling, gossiping or rumour-mongering.

No one under the age of 12 could be convicted. But for anyone older than 12, a first offence could result in a fine of up to $300. For second or subsequent convictions the fine would be between $300 and $2,500.

A charge can also be dealt with through mediation, or participation in an anti-bullying course, if certain conditions are met, including the consent of the complainant.

According to CTV Saskatoon's Matt Young, after a few hours of debate, many city councillors felt the bylaw was overreaching or vague. Some councillors also questioned how it could be enforced. Coun. Darren Hill told CTV Saskatoon that he doesn't want to see the bylaw die.

"We heard very clearly from our chief of police that he sees it as a beneficial tool to ensure that they can help the school board address bullying," said Hill.Coun. Ann Iwanchuk said she wanted to crack down on bullying, but wasn't sure the bylaw was the appropriate response.

"What I want to see is a mechanism that will help kids and help the parents of kids who are dealing with this issue," said Iwanchuk.

"Whether it is a bylaw or something else remains to be seen."

Brigette Kreig, whose 16-year-old daughter overdosed on fentanyl last summer after years of bullying, also spoke at city council on Monday.

"The depression, the anxiety, the suicide, the addiction, when I hear people mocking this bylaw I'm filled with both anger and disbelief," said Kreig.

Brian Trainor, a retired police sergeant who now delivers anti-bullying presentations in schools around Saskatchewan, presented the bylaw at Monday's meeting.

"The bylaw is intended for bullying in schools," Trainor explained on CTV's Canada AM earlier on Monday.

"The city solicitors made an attempt to identify three main types of bullying – verbal, physical and psychological – and they listed various types of bullying activity. Unfortunately, it’s taken on a life of its own."

Trainor presented two versions of the bylaw: One that will apply to bullying in schools and on school sites, and another that won't.

He acknowledges that critics have questioned how the bylaw would be enforced, but says most bylaws are complainant-driven.

"The police won't go out looking for opportunities to charge people. We have noise bylaws, we also have a spitting on the sidewalk bylaw. I can guarantee you there are not cops downtown Saskatoon looking for people spitting on the sidewalk. But if someone phones and complains, you deal with it."

But how would officers draw the line between bullying and unpleasant behaviour?

It's a discretion call on part of the police, Trainor says.

"Bullying has three components to it – it's repeated, it's intentional and it's harmful. It all depends on the circumstances."

Regina has had an anti-bullying and public fighting bylaw since 2006, but it does not specifically include gossiping or rumour-mongering in its definition of bullying.