© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
PINK SHIRT RALLY
No one can claim any longer they don’t know what bullying is or that it’s wrong
Pink Shirt Day got off to an early start in Prince Edward Island this year when close to 100 people gathered at Province House Tuesday evening to stand in solidarity against the practice of bullying.
Last week, the day’s founder, Travis Price, visited the Island to spread his anti-bullying message to schools. And even before that, the province’s QMJHL team, the Charlottetown Islanders, also visited schools to discuss bullying.
Wednesday night’s Islanders game was dedicated to the cause, with the hockey players sporting pink and fans encouraged to wear their rosiest items from their wardrobe as well.
There is no denying the movement has been gaining momentum in recent years.
In 2007, Price and his friend, David Shepherd, who were in Grade 12 at the time, bought and distributed 50 pink shirts after one of their male classmates at their Annapolis Valley, N.S., school was bullied for wearing pink. Later that week, the Nova Scotia premier wore a pink necktie and proclaimed the second Thursday at the start of each school year as Stand Up Against Bullying Day. It didn’t take long for the idea to catch on across the country and even parts of the United States.
Another, more recent N.S. incident proves that bullying is still pervasive and destructive. Cole Harbour teen Rehtaeh Parsons died after a suicide attempt her parents blame on bullying and harassment she suffered at the hands (or texting thumbs) of her classmates.
So, no, bullying hasn’t stopped with initiatives like Pink Shirt Day, or even the International Stop Cyberbullying Youth Summit held in Charlottetown in November. But nobody can claim any longer that they don’t know what bullying is, or that it’s wrong. And as every campaign claims, knowledge is the first step to changing behaviour.
Take, for example, the group of young people honoured Tuesday night during the rally at Province House.
Junior high school boys — incidentally the same age and gender as the bullies who made fun of Price’s friend in Nova Scotia in 2007 — were recognized for their efforts of inclusion by Pink Shirt Day P.E.I. organizers.
The boys, who play for rival Charlottetown basketball teams Birchwood and Queen Charlotte, stepped back during a game in January and gave Birchwood student Cameron Gordon numerous shots until he scored a couple of baskets. Cameron has Down syndrome and his parents expected he’d be made to feel welcome — but usually from the bench. No one expected a bunch of junior high boys would put aside their competitiveness and hand over the
basketball time and again during a high-pressure game.
Cameron’s mother, Catherine McInnis, posted a YouTube video from the game and wrote, “Hey, I was all ready to give him the ‘You’re in Grade 7. You will have to earn your way to get on the floor. Boys in Grade 7 spend a lot of time on the bench’ speech, until coach John Reid was able to put him in for the last two minutes of play.”
Pink Shirt Day P.E.I. committee chairman Joe Killorn presented the Birchwood and Queen Charlotte basketball teams with their own pink shirts Tuesday night.
The boys’ actions are “exactly what Pink Shirt Day stands for,” Killorn said. “It stands for inclusiveness. It stands for acceptance. It stands for standing up for other people.”
For all the sad stories of bullying, like the Rehtaeh Parsons ones, we find hope in the stories of Price and Shepard and of Cameron Gordon. Pink Shirt Day serves as a reminder that anti-bullying is more than simply not being a bully. Everyone has a duty to look for ways to spread kindness, too.