It just got a whole lot tougher to be a bully in Port Coquitlam.
On Tuesday, against the backdrop of Riverside Secondary students and community leaders, an aggressive anti-bullying campaign was launched. The Be Someone campaign includes a number of initiatives and measures to curb the scourge of bullying.
Among the initiatives is a first-in-B.C. anti-bullying bylaw for Port Coquitlam. Essentially, the bylaw will define bullying and give police powers to hand out tickets for those caught taking part in the act.
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.
The bylaw will get its first reading at the Dec. 10 PoCo council meeting.
But Mayor Greg Moore, who was at times emotional during the launch event, suggested the bylaw alone won't end bullying.
"You need to come with a community approach so that we're all in this together," he said.
That's where the business community has gotten involved.
The program will be visible through window decals placed in businesses and public areas alerting young people that those businesses and community facilities are safe places for anyone being bullied.
Gary Mauris, the president and founder of Port Coquitlam-based Dominion Lending Centres who spearheaded the program, said he doesn't want to wait for the provincial government to take action on bullying.
"We need the entire community involved," he said, noting he would like to see the province allocate funds for a provincial bullying strategy given to local groups in each community.
The Be Someone campaign, which uses a snowflake as its symbol, started in the wake of the death of Port Coquitlam teen Amanda Todd, who took her life last month after years of being bullied.
"Princess Snowflake" was the nickname Amanda's mother Carol had given her.
The program, which also has the support of the RCMP and school district, contains several other initiatives including online resources for victims of bullying and a bullying-help text-messaging platform.
The first annual Snowflake Walk to End Bullying, which is aimed at raising funds and donations for bullying awareness and mental health issues, is planned for Dec. 9, starting at 1 p.m. at the Port Coquitlam Recreation Complex.
Carol Todd said the Be Someone program is the best gift her daughter Amanda could have received on what would have been her 16th birthday.
"What we're saying to everyone is bullying and bullying behaviour is not welcome here," she said.
The hope by all involved in the program is it will be a blueprint for other communities and cities across Canada to follow.
As for students, they think their peers will buy into the program.
"I was really inspired and happy to see that this program has all these people coming together for such an important cause," said Grade 11 Riverside Secondary student Iman Baharmand.
He suggested in the weeks since Todd's death, bullying has decreased in his school.
Tom Kadota, another Grade 11 student at the PoCo school, suggested the program will keep the issue front and centre in the years to come.
"Everyone's really wanting to make a difference. It feels amazing to be a part of this movement," he said.
For more information on the campaign, visit iamsomeone.ca.