Cumberland South MLA and Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie introduced three pieces of anti-bullying legislation in the House on April 17. Joining him outside Province House were (from left) Travis Price, Chad, Sharon and Tom Brown.
HALIFAX - If Jamie Baillie has his way, bullies in Nova Scotia will have to pay for their actions. The Cumberland South MLA and Progressive Conservative leader presented three pieces of legislation in the House of Assembly on April 17 aimed to protect children from bullies both in school and online. Baillie's proposed legislation includes The Safer Schools Act, which would see province-wide standards set for bullying prevention and disciplinary measures; the Cyber bullying Intervention Act, which includes measures such as confiscation of electronic devices from offenders; and the Stand Up Against Bullying Day Act, which would see the second Thursday of September established as the annual Stand Up Against Bullying Day. "To protect kids from bullying today requires the involvement of our schools, the community and parents," said Baillie. Among those on hand at the legislature were Parrsboro's Tom and Sharon Brown, who lost their 17-year-old daughter Courtney to suicide in March of last year. Baillie said the legislation he introduced this week was inspired by his meeting with the Browns a year ago. "The worst imaginable thing that can happen to a parent happened to them," said Baillie. "They lost their daughter to a suicide driven by bullying, both schoolyard bullying and cyber bullying, and their frustration (was) that officials - teachers, principals, police, the community - did not have the tools that they need to protect our kids." He set party researchers to work and they looked at legislation and best practices in other provinces and several U.S. states, as well as the recommendations from the province's anti-bullying task force report released last month. The result was the three bills introduced this week. "I think it's a step in the right direction, and it's a long time coming," said Mr. Brown. "We'll see what comes of it." He could not say if measures like those proposed by Baillie could have prevented his daughter's death, but that it is important that outside resources be available to come into a school and nip bullying in the bud as soon as it starts to take place. "It has a lot to do with parents," he said. "It's at the bus stop, it's on the bus, it's at school, it's after school, and schools are playing more of a role in this. Because when teachers investigate other teachers, it may not come out the way you want." The success of the PC bills will depend on whether they receive support from the NDP government. If not, Baillie said he is committed to making them a part of his party's platform for the next provincial election, expected next year. "I'm hopeful because there is such an urgent need that the NDP will see the wisdom of what we're doing and pass the bill. That's my number one hope," he said. "If they don't, we are on record, and the people of Cumberland South and Nova Scotia know I will pass these bills as premier after the next election." Meanwhile, the Browns continue their own efforts to combat bullying and to help victims of bullying. They have been raising funds for an upcoming walk in Truro for Kids' Help Phone, and have so far raised more than $4,000 in pledges for the cause. They have rented a bus to take their team of more than 30 people from Parrsboro to Truro for the May 6 event, and have friends and family coming from Ontario to participate. "To us, this is a big deal... it means something," he said. "We're going to get more involved, and who knows, maybe we'll have a walk here (in Parrsboro) next year."