The death of Ottawa teen Jamie Hubley and the importance of Spirit Day was not lost on the House of Commons.
On Oct 20, MPs commemorated Hubley and all victims of homophobic bullying; some wore purple clothes, others attached purple ribbons to their jackets.
NDP queer issues critic, Randall Garrison, noted the importance of the day, highlighting both BC’s Purple Letter Campaign and the Oct 20 evening vigil for Hubley.
The Purple Letter Campaign was recently created to lobby the BC government to adopt a sexual orientation policy for schools.
Randall Garrison and Dany Morin say the government needs to do more to address homophobia in Canadian schools.
“Beyond wearing purple today, we also need to act to help bring an end to suicides caused by homophobic bullying,” Garrison told the House. “We need to ensure that youth have supports they need and no one is left feeling that suicide is the only option. We need to listen to the calls from youth to make it better now. Yes, for most it will get better, but some feel they cannot wait.”
Dany Morin, NDP associate critic for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual issues, asked what the government is doing to stop bullying.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird responded, calling on all Canadians to promote tolerance and acceptance.
“Bullying, homophobia, intolerance and incivility have no place in our schools,” Baird said. “It underlies the real challenge of depression and mental health, especially among young people.”
Morin says Baird’s response was a good first step. He says that ever since an increase in hate crimes was reported during the spring session, Baird has been willing to discuss the issue. However, he wants the government to do more than make statements.
“I want legislation that would protect [queer] kids, but also kids period, because bullying is not only targeted toward [queer] people,” Morin says. “We will be working with [Baird] and the Conservatives on that. We’ll see how far we can go, but right now I have high hopes that we’ll have the support of the Conservative government to make sure that we protect our children in Canada.”
Morin is drafting a private member’s bill that will aim to tackle the issue of bullying. He says he hopes Baird will support him.
Liberal MP Hedy Fry is also working on a bill to look at the issue of cyber-bullying.
“Cyber-bullying you can’t walk away from because it’s always there as a history,” she says. “We need to look at cyber-bullying as a communications issue.”
Fry says the Criminal Code should incorporate new media.
“We need to add that to the Communications Act and the Criminal Code so that you can’t use any form of media to bully people, because the insidiousness of cyber-bullying is that it stays with you for the rest of your life,” she says. “If you try to get a job when you’re 30, and somebody Googles you, there it is.”
Green Party Leader, Elizabeth May, who wore purple to show her support, says MPs should also examine their behaviour.
“We need to do more than make the statement and wear purple,” she says. “We have to notice how we behave to one another, and when the seat of government behaves in ways that are bullying on a routine basis, you have to wonder if they don’t see the irony.”