Bullying can cause pain and even death.
Responding to a suicide call eight years ago, Sergeant Henry Dyck found a note left behind by the victim who took his life.
“Basically, it said he was bullied in high school after migrating to Canada and that was one of the reasons why he did what he did,” recounted the 51 Division officer, at the Toronto Police and Harbord Collegiate Institute International Day of Pink celebration on April 13.
“That, for me was personal because being a gay man, I saw yet another person in my community die needlessly. It’s so preventable and all it takes is for one person to speak up.”
International Day of the Pink started after a Nova Scotia teenager was bullied in 2007 for wearing a pink shirt to school. His fellow students rallied behind him by wearing pink to show their solidarity against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Trans Queer (LGBT)-based discrimination.
Celebrated on the second Wednesday of April, the celebration seeks to support the work of students, educators, communities and businesses in their efforts to stop bullying, discrimination, homophobia and transphobia.
“It’s a bit sad that we have only one day to focus on this,” said Grade 12 student Abby Gopsill who – with Allegra McLeish -- spearheaded the school’s Peer Leaders Program.
Sometimes I worry that kids will get the message today and forget it tomorrow.
Gopsill said she was bullied in grade five.
“I was taken advantage of because I was labelled as different,” she said.
“So I know the negative effect bullying can have on people. What we are endeavouring to do here is make those kids who feel left out inclusive, at least if it is for a day. It’s really important to help those who are subjected to this kind of sick behaviour.
After watching the San Francisco Police Department’s video,It Gets Better, which raised the bar for police organizations demonstrating their support for LGBTQ members, the Service’s LBGTQ Internal Support Network (ISN) partnered with Martin Blake of Video Services, three years ago, to create a TPS anti-bullying video, Together We Can Make It Better: Stop. Bullying. Now.”
Through direct-to-camera testimonials, the video examines members’ personal experiences with bullying and victimization, the root causes and the role of social media in bullying, coping and alleviation strategies for victims as well as the myriad school, community and police resources available.
A new video,Speak Up, was launched at this year’s event.
“We just wanted to do an update on the first video,” said Dyck, who co-chairs the Service’s LGBTQ ISN.
“People need to know it’s important to speak up when they see any form of bullying. It should never be tolerated because it could lead to the loss of a life.”
Chief Mark Saunders reminded the audience that LGBTQ youth face bullying, harassment and discrimination daily.
“We need to remember to stand up and support this community, not just on the International day of the Pink, but every day going forward,” he pointed out.
“I am committed to leading the way on behalf of our Service, especially for my LGBTQ members.”
Harbord Collegiate Institute principal Vince Meade said his school was delighted to partner with Canada’s largest municipal police service to co-host the event.
“This is an exciting day for us,” he said.