Mr. Speaker, today is national Pink Shirt Day, a day celebrated during the last Wednesday of February of each year. We provided pink carnations for all of the Members, and I am pleased to see all the pink in the House today, marking our acknowledgement that bullying in any form is unacceptable.
This initiative was started by two brave young men in Nova Scotia, David Shepherd and Travis Price, who gave away fifty pink shirts after a grade 9 student was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school.
These two young men raised national awareness of a significant societal problem that does not only exist in our schools. It is a behaviour that has spread around the world.
Mr. Speaker, Canada is well known for its tolerance and diversity. Global events of late have seen a surge of racism, bullying and discrimination, and we must stand against that. We must all stand up for those who are ruthlessly harassed, in person, online and in whispers. We are the examples for our children, as they grow and develop their sense of self.
The Northwest Territories is an inclusive, multicultural region, where we celebrate our different cultures and lifestyles. We must work together to protect the growth and progress we’ve seen, do our part to change attitudes, and show the rest of Canada, and the world, that bullying stops here.
Mr. Speaker, we began this journey in 2013, with amendments to the Education Act that included bullying prevention measures. Since that time, we have engaged with schools and students across the North, with pledges and contests, and a Stop Bullying – Stand Up NWT Facebook page which continues to grow. We currently have nearly 3,500 likes on the page and consistent engagements.
I am very proud to see that students across the North have heeded this call to action and are standing up in groups, through songs, videos, plays and actions.
As I mentioned in my statement on responding to the mandate commitment of Community Wellness and Safety, on September 2016, the Territorial School Code of Conduct and Safe Schools Regulations came into effect. The Regulations set a standard of behaviour for NWT students, school staff and the school community. The Department has provided education bodies with templates and exemplars to assist in the required development of Safe Schools Plans, and is currently providing support in the development of Emergency Response Plans, to be implemented in the 2017-2018 school year. These plans will be reviewed and updated annually.
As well, the Department is working with non-government organization partners and education bodies to develop policies and resources to support students and staff from the LGBTQ2+ community.
We are excited to see the progress that has been accomplished in this important initiative.
Mr. Speaker, I am most excited, however, to see the faces of students, as they fight against bullying, racism and discrimination. They are the ones that will change the attitudes that will form the policies and shift the perceptions that bullying in all forms is unacceptable. I look forward to the day when Pink Shirt Day, Day of Pink, Bullying Awareness Week and all of the great initiatives that have sprung up to fight bullying and discrimination are days marked in history.
Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.