An entire generation of B.C. students have now graduated high school having participated in Pink Shirt Day yearly and on Wednesday, students across the province came together to share positivity and kindness and say no to bullying for the 13th year in a row.
Pink Shirt Day was inspired by an act of kindness that came out of small-town Nova Scotia in 2007. David Shepherd, Travis Price and their friends organized a high school protest to wear pink to school in sympathy with a grade nine boy who was being bullied for wearing a pink shirt. Since then, the movement has grown across Canada and to other countries.
Since 2008, net proceeds of over $2.3 million have been distributed to support anti-bullying programs in B.C. and throughout Western Canada.
The B.C. government has also proclaimed Feb. 26, 2020 as Diversity and Acceptance Day, highlighting the government’s commitment to ensuring a safe and inclusive province.
On Wednesday, students from local Victoria schools as well as politicians and community members gathered at the B.C. Parliament Buildings to partake in the day. They were dressed in pink shirts with a rocket ship on them and the phase “lift each other up” which is this year’s theme for Pink Shirt Day.
Premier John Horgan, Minister of Education Rob Fleming and other MLAs were joined by transgender advocate Tru Wilson, parent and founder of the Amanda Todd Legacy Society Carol Todd and Travis Price, co-founder of Pink Shirt Day.
“For me this has turned into so many things but I think above all else it’s turned into an opportunity to continue the conversation … to remind us every single day that kids are affected by bullying,” Price said. “It puts the pressure on each and every one of us in this room to say we no longer want to see this.”
Fleming said the province’s Erase program continues to provide students with tools and resources to support their well-being. Erase is a comprehensive resource to better represent issues facing youth and their communities today. Some priority areas in the program include a focus on social media and online safety, mental health and wellness, substance use, gang prevention and supporting students of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
“We all have a responsibility to combat bullying whether it’s online, whether it’s in our homes, whether it’s in our communities or our schools,” Fleming said.
According to the Ministry of Education, the 2018 Adolescent Health Survey shows that 14 per cent of B.C. students had been cyberbullied in 2018. Fifty-four per cent of B.C.’s gay and lesbian high school students report experiencing discrimination because of their sexual orientation.
At the B.C. Parliament Buildings, Wilson, a 16-year-old transgender advocate, emphasized the importance of having someone around for support.
“Even if you think that you’re all alone, like I once did, there’s always someone there for you,” Wilson said. “There’s always someone there to lift you up from the ground.”