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EDITORIAL: Pink shirts alone won’t end bullying

One in five Canadian children are affected by bullying
(Kemone Moodley/Hope Standard)

On Feb. 22, people across Canada will wear pink shirts in an anti-bullying gesture.

Pink Shirt Day started at Nova Scotia school in 2007 to show support to a Grade 9 boy who was the victim of bullying. Since then, the day has grown into an international movement to create a kinder, more inclusive world and to raise awareness for anti-bullying initiatives.

The intent of the day is worthwhile, but bullying remains an ongoing problem even now, 16 years after Pink Shirt Day was started.

According to the latest information from Pink Shirt Day organizers, one in five Canadian children are affected by bullying. This is about ongoing behaviour, not one-time incidents.

This statistic is disturbing.

Those who are the victims of bullying will carry the memories long after the incidents have ended. This can affect them for the rest of their lives. Depression, anxiety, destructive behaviours and difficulty in trusting others are among the lingering effects for victims of bullying.

For those who are bullies as children, the behaviour, if unchecked, can continue into adulthood.

Bullying is not limited to schoolyard scraps between children. Verbal bullying happens in person and in online settings. Social bullying and deliberately excluding specific individuals also constitutes bullying.

This is not confined to school-aged children and teens. It can affect people of all ages.

Cyberbullying can target adults as well as youths. There are also workers who have faced repeated harassment from tyrannical bosses or mean-spirited coworkers. Domestic abuse and elder abuse are also forms of bullying.

The anti-bullying measures on Feb. 22, are good gestures, but gestures alone are not enough.

Wearing a pink t-shirt has no meaning if the person wearing the shirt is also condescending, cruel or violent.

An ongoing commitment to showing respect, even when it is difficult to do so, will have a far greater impact than the actions taken on a single day.

The anti-bullying goal of Pink Shirt Day is important, and wearing the shirt can be a sign of one’s commitment to this cause, but it is not a single-day gesture.

The value of showing respect to others is something that must be lived out every day.

— Black Press