Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Ottawa Centre for a very respectful speech in regard to this very serious issue of cyberbullying. A couple of our NDP colleagues have already moved legislation forward in this regard in order to discuss and combat the scourge of cyberbullying that is affecting our country.
When I was a little kid growing up, we always heard the expression “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”. Now it is “gigs and bytes you may not like”. That is what I heard the other day.
The reality is that this is a new era now, one in which our young people are communicating back and forth at lightning speed, in many cases with people they do not even know. In many cases, these are people who prey upon them.
For years now, I have had legislation on the books that came from former MP Chris Axworthy on Internet child pornography. In it we were basically trying to get the Internet service providers to have some responsibility to monitor the sites and, when something of that nature came forward, to inform the police and make sure that appropriate action was being taken.
There is no question that this legislation is a good start. We hope to get it to committee in order to get it split and be able to move it very quickly, as my colleagues on both sides have said very clearly.
However, I want to focus on something that is a little more personal in terms of the family.
We can have all the legislation that we want. We can have all the enforcement, punishment, and everything else that we could have in terms of this issue, and yes, it would deter and possibly stop some people from doing it, but it will not be the end of it all.
If we look at drunk driving, we see tough measures against it across the country, but people still drink and drive. The United States has the death penalty in certain states, but the reality is that murders are still happening. The reality is that we can have the toughest cyberbullying legislation in the world, but it will not eliminate it completely. It would deter it and reduce it, but it would not eliminate it.
However, what may assist these young men and women when they feel the effects of cyberbullying is the conversation with their parents and their peers.
I have two daughters, aged 25 and 22, who grew up with the Internet and all of that kind of technology, but my wife was very clear and careful to ensure that a conversation took place on a regular basis about being very careful of what they typed into computer and being very careful about what they looked at on Facebook, and now the tweets and so on.
That conversation has to take place. The government or opposition members cannot be the sole source of remedying this situation. This has to be a national conversation across the country. I encourage all families, all legal guardians, and everyone else to have that national conversation with their children so that they understand the dangers and the threats of the Internet and what happens on Facebook when they post pictures or say certain things that can be interpreted in the wrong way.
When I grew up in Vancouver, I grew up in a group home. My parents had over 400 children come to our home over 23 years. Some stayed with us for a few hours, some for a few weeks, a few days, or a few months. Some even stayed for a couple of years.
The one thread that connected each and every one of those kids was love and respect. All these kids did not feel the love and they did not feel they had any respect. They did not feel they were contributing members to our society. They all felt that it was their fault. They all felt that it was a burden. When a 10-year-old tells my parents, “I can make more money on Davie Street in 20 minutes than I can working at home for a week”, there is a serious problem.
These kids are vulnerable and subject to anyone out there that will prey upon them. This is how cyberbullying works. Just as it was in the old days, they prey upon those who may be vulnerable. They prey upon those who may be a bit curious as to what is going on. Then the children get into that vortex or trap, and the next thing is they become victims.
Amanda Todd, Rehtaeh Parsons from Nova Scotia, and Jamie Hubley in Ottawa were three beautiful young people who had a tremendous amount to offer. They had the opportunity to become great citizens of our country. Who know what they may have been able to have done with their lives? Unfortunately, with the pressures they felt, they felt they had no other way out, for lack of a better term, than to end their own lives.
When a young child commits suicide, it affects not just their own family, and again my condolences and thoughts and prayers go out to all those families and friends; when a young child commits suicide, it should affect every single Canadian citizen. As my colleague from Ottawa Centre said so clearly, “What were we all doing?” What responsibility did we have when these kids were starting to look for help? What responsibility do we have, not just as politicians but as friends, as neighbours, as family members?
We cannot just avoid it and say that it is the school's responsibility or the government's responsibility. It is our collective community responsibility to reach out to the disenfranchised in our society.
The LGBT society, for years and years, has advocated just to have normal relationships with the rest of society. For years, society has put them down because they were different.
I represent one the largest Black communities in Canada, the original Black community of Preston. For years and years, the racism that community had to face was unconscionable. In many cases, in certain areas, it still exists.
We have a long way to go. I go to many schools, and we always hear the word “tolerant”. We hear that we are tolerant of each other. I am asking all parliamentarians and all Canadians to throw that word out. We should get the Webster dictionary to throw that word away. We should be celebrating our diversity. Whether someone is from Asia, Africa, Europe, or elsewhere, and whether someone is aboriginal, gay, straight, lesbian, or transgender, it should not matter.
We should all be equal under God's eyes. We, as parliamentarians, should set the example of equality for all. Whether one is disabled, young, man or woman, child or senior, it does not matter: we should all be treated equally in this regard. We should respect one another. We can disagree, but we do not have to be disagreeable.
I am hoping that that national conversation will take place so that no more Amanda Todds and no more Rehteah Parsons have to happen, and that when these young children feel they are under a tremendous amount of pressure, they can not only go to their parents but should be able to reach out to the general society, and we should be there with open arms, saying “We know you have a concern and a problem, and we are going to help you walk through this.”
This legislation is important. It is critical that we get it done right. Apparently there are 37 provisions in this bill that have nothing to do with cyberbullying, so I am hopeful that when the bill gets to committee, the committee members can agree with expert advice to ensure that we get it right the first time.
I am sure not one parliamentarian in this House wants to make a mistake on this one. It is too critical to get it right. However, even if it is the gold-plated model and it gets sent through and it is done, it may not prevent future cyberbullying. What may do it is going back to the personal responsibility that we all have in our community, right across this country and for that matter internationally, to ensure that when someone feels pressure and feels there is no other way out except to commit suicide, we are able to help them.
A friend of mine works at the Kids Help Phone. Even though she is not permitted to tell me the specific nature of the call or the names, when these kids call that number, I know that my friend goes home literally a changed person every night because of some of the calls she takes. She volunteers for that. These kids are reaching out for help.
I am hopeful that we get the legislation right. The government will have our support when it is done correctly, and we will get it to the committee, but on top of that, we need to ensure that all of us—family, friends, parents, and community members right across this country—work together collectively to ensure that we all take responsibility in the raising and the future and the care of our children.