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Pana Merchant

The Hon. Pana  Merchant, B.A. Appointed to the Senate by the Rt. Honourable Jean Chrétien, Senator Pana Merchant represents the province of Saskatchewan and the Senatorial Division of Saskatchewan. She has served in the Senate of Canada since December 12, 2002.

A New Perspective on Cyberbullying

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Published by Senator Mobina Jaffer on 15 May 2012

Recently the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights has been holding hearings on cyber-bullying. In preparation for last week’s hearing I reflected on the lessons our committee learned earlier and thought about the important messages that were conveyed by Professor Shaheen Shariff from McGill University and representatives from The Media Awareness Network and Stop-A-Bully.

Both the Media Awareness Network and representatives from the Stop-A-Bully organization gave our committee insight into the great work they do and the resources that they already have in place to help young Canadians who have become victims of cyber-bullying. For example, Stop-A-Bully, which is a non-profit organization that was founded in my Province of British Columbia, offers a service where bullying can be reported. Through the Stop-A-Bully Website any student or parent in Canada can go on the online and submit detailed reports regarding any incidents of bullying. This report is then forwarded to the Principal of the school. This reporting system ensures that Principals are well informed about what is going on not only in the hallways but also at home. Any parent, teacher or student can submit School Join Requests to the Stop-A-Bully website and access this service.

The Media Awareness Network on the other hand offers resources to parents and to children which help promote digital media literacy. They do this by providing young people and adults with the tools they need to make wise, informed and ethical online decisions.

One of the objectives of our study is to create a report which sheds light on the complex nature of cyber-bullying in Canada. Our committee plans on doing this by drawing upon contributions made by Canadian Youth, studying initiatives that are in place nationally and internationally and finally determining how Canada is meeting its international human rights obligations relating to the protection of children and youth.

More specifically, On 30 November 2011 our committee was authorized by the Senate to examine and report upon the issue of cyberbullying in Canada with regard to Canada’s international human rights obligations under article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Article 19 of the Convention states that:

States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.

Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child, as well as for other forms of prevention and for identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment described heretofore, and, as appropriate, for judicial involvement.

On 18 April 2011, the UN Committee of the Rights of the Child stated that “mental violence,” as framed in article 19 of the Convention can include: “Psychological bullying and hazing by adults or other children, including via information and communication technologies such as mobile phones and the Internet known as ‘cyberbullying.’”

Last week, Professor Shariff provided our Committee with recommendations which she felt would help our committee achieve this goal. Dr. Shariff told our committee that she was confident that Canada could take the lead in meeting the provisions under Articles 19 and 12 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. She went on to state that Canadians need to ensure that the provisions of article 19 and 12 are applied to the protection and participation of all Canadian youth, including perpetrators of cyber-bullying.

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