If the City of Port Coquitlam plans on bringing in a bylaw to curb bullying, it better be prepared to follow through and have it challenged.
That's the advice from police in Regina, the city where the first anti-bullying bylaw in the country was created back in 2006.
Regina Police Service spokeswoman Elizabeth Popowich said the Prairie city enacted the anti-bullying bylaw, which also includes fines for public fighting, as a means of bringing awareness to the issue.
She said quite a bit of time went into developing the bylaw, adding the intent was to create some form of a sanction that wasn't criminal in nature.
A fine of up to $2,000 can be levied for an infraction.
But in the years since, Popowich noted only a handful of tickets have been issued and none have been followed through to prosecution or payment.
Instead, she said police were more likely to proceed with a criminal charge for a specific complaint or incident when warranted, rather then use the bylaw.
"In many cases, the evidence is there for harassment or assault or uttering threats or a criminal charge," Popowich told The NOW.
This week, as part of a major anti-bullying campaign launched in the wake of the suicide of Amanda Todd, the City of Port Coquitlam announced plans to develop an anti-bullying bylaw, which would be the first of its kind in B.C.
Though the details of such a bylaw still need to be worked out, the intention is to define bullying and give police powers to hand out tickets for those caught taking part in it.
The fines will start at $200 and escalate to $2,000. However, the point of the bylaw is not to collect money but to educate and change behaviour.
As part of the bylaw, an anti-bullying course is being developed through the PoCo Youth Society. Those who get fines will be able to take the course to have their tickets ripped up.
Interestingly, the Regina bylaw was created in response to the story of Reena Virk, another tragic case of bullying in B.C. In the Regina bylaw, the city has defined " bully" as "any objectionable or inappropriate comment, conduct or display by a person directed at an individual not of the same household intended to intimidate, humiliate, ridicule or isolate, which causes or is likely to cause physical or emotional distress."
While the bylaw makes note of bullying in a public place, it also extends to written or electronic communications.
Popowich noted that portion of the bylaw recognizes the increasing use of electronics as just one more way people might carry out bullying.
Much like the proposed PoCo bylaw, the Regina regulations offer an alternative to a fine, in which the person can attend an anti-bullying course.
Popowich said the bylaw hasn't eradicated bullying from the city, suggesting no bylaw ever could, but it has proven to have value as an educational tool.
"I would say it has helped. It's helped to raise awareness," she said. "There is value in raising awareness about the issue, about serving notice that it's unacceptable and there are consequences."
The PoCo bylaw will get its first reading at the Dec. 10 council meeting.