Prime Minister Stephen Harper attended a cyberbullying forum in Winnipeg with the family members of several teenagers whose deaths have cast a spotlight on the issue.
The parents of Rehtaeh Parsons and the mother of Amanda Todd were among those who joined Harper at a roundtable session hosted by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection on Friday afternoon.
The mother of Rehtaeh Parsons blames online bullies for her 17-year-old daughter’s death. (CBC)
Harper said the Conservative government is reviewing the Criminal Code and looking at ways to crack down on online harassment.
“As a society, we have to do everything we can to ensure that the kind of events that befell these beautiful young girls do not befall other of our beautiful children in the future,” Harper said.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews was also at the meeting, along with officials with the child protection centre, Kid’s Help Phone and PREVNet (Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network).
The deaths of Todd and Parsons have sparked international attention and brought the problem of cyberbullying to the forefront in recent months.
Todd, 15, of Port Coquitlam, B.C., took her own life last fall after posting a video on YouTube describing how she had been tormented by bullying online and how she had struggled with depression.
Parsons, from Nova Scotia, was taken off life support on April 7 after attempting suicide a few days earlier. She was 17 years old.
According to Parsons’s mother, four boys sexually assaulted her daughter when she was 15. Rehtaeh was then said to have been mocked by classmates, enduring relentless harassment and humiliation after a photo of the attack was circulated at her Cole Harbour, N.S. school and on social media.
Parsons’s father, Glen Canning, said there has to be serious consequences for those who take part in cyberbullying.
“We need to have something to protect children online and right now, when it comes to being harassed by other children, there’s just nothing there whatsoever,” he said.
Amanda Todd, 15, of Port Coquitlam, B.C., committed suicide last fall after she was cyberstalked. (Facebook)
“We weren’t getting [into]
specifics about laws … but we were talking about ideas and we were just sharing some ideas that we had.”
Canning said one idea that emerged from Friday’s meeting was to get internet service providers involved in fighting cyberbullying.
“To remain silent on things like this is just really not an option,” he said.
“For what tools they could have, they could have even educational tools. They could have contract tools. You know, I’m sure there’s things out there. It’d be nice if they just brainstorm what they could be.”
Also on the guest list for Friday’s meeting was the aunt of Jenna Bowers-Bryanton, a 15-year-old Nova Scotia girl who committed suicide in 2011 after she was harassed at school and through a social networking website.
Another parent who attended the roundtable was the mother of Kimberly Proctor, 18, who was raped, tortured and murdered near Victoria B.C., in 2010. She had been lured online by two teenage boys who killed her.
Protesters swarm meeting
A large group of protesters pushed their way into the Delta Hotel shortly after the round table began on Friday.
The protesters expressed frustration with the Harper government’s stance on aboriginal and environmental issues. Many held signs bearing anti-Harper images and slogans.
The group was quickly corralled by security and forced back outside.