When Vote 503 went to the floor in the federal House of Commons last week, Chris Rider was watching closely.
Rider is the executive director of Whitehorse’s Bringing Youth Towards Equality, a local youth outreach group that spends a lot of time combating bullying in the territory. Vote 503 was on the proposed National Bullying Prevention Strategy, something Rider was holding high hopes for.
“There were a few things specific to that bill that were excellent. One of the things is that it … focused on prevention rather than criminalization,’” said Rider.
The vote failed, with 147 Conservative MPs voting against it. Every member of the opposition who voted said yes.
Among the MPs who voted down the measure was Yukon’s Ryan Leef. He says he did so because it represented more talk at a time when action is needed.
“In principle, in spirit, I certainly support the intent of the motion. The challenge right now, at least my decision to vote against it is that we have two parliamentary committees studying bullying issues right now … We’ve heard on committee that more studies is not what’s needed. It’s time to take action on these things,” said Leef.
As Rider sees it, Vote 503 was the perfect opportunity to stop simply blaming bullies and address the root causes of the behavior, something that he feels isn’t done often enough.
“The problem is that Vote 503, the new legislation that failed to pass, was a really good way of building a strategy that included all of that,” said Rider.
And he’s confused.
“Yes, I was surprised. It just seems like such a no-brainer when you’ve got a problem that’s this prevalent, to put aside any politics and put together a strategy,” said Rider.
For Leef, the solution is to focus more regionally, because national strategies often get hijacked by the concerns in big cities.
“Urban centres tend to dominate these things. Toronto tends to focus on anti-gang issues. We’re not really facing gang issues. The challenges we face are very different,” he said, adding that working with local organizations like BYTE will be more effective than a catchall national policy.
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