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Sticks And Stones Part Two

I am angry. I am sad. I am furious.
I did not know Jamie Hubley personally but from what I have read about this 15-year-old Ottawa boy, I understand he was a talented singer with a great sense of humour. He was creative and kind. He also suffered with depression, which was a direct result of bullying. He was tormented and physically and verbally assaulted regularly over the course of his life. Why? According to reports, the taunting and name calling started when he chose figure skating over hockey. He also loved theatre and singing. He was also gay.
His father spoke with CTV News through his tears and explained that three years ago Jamie was pinned down on the school bus and had small batteries shoved down his throat when some of his grade 7 classmates found out he had chosen figure skating over hockey. Just typing these words infuriates and sickens me. This goes beyond bullying. This is human cruelty and torture. There comes a time when we, as a community and as a nation, need to wake up and recognize that children and young adults are dying as a result of bullying. In this case, Jamie’s sexual orientation was the reason why he was called hurtful names and made to feel inferior to his peers. There are a variety of reasons why people perceive they are being bullied….not pretty enough, not masculine enough, not smart enough but being gay is a common thread in several teen suicides over recent months and years. But that is a whole other column.
I think we need to start looking at this in a different way. Yes, Jamie was responsible for his actions but I am not so certain it can be tucked into a neat little box and labelled as “suicide.” I look at this and see a child that was to one degree or another killed by his tormenters. Yes, it was indirect but we now know that bullying can result in a profound depression, which can lead some children and youth to take their own lives in a desperate moment. We need to start making those who bully responsible on some level for their actions and contributions to this. Therefore, if you are bullying, you are knowingly and willingly contributing to a potential death. And there needs to be consequences for this. When I read about the incident on his school bus, I thought of how horrific and terrifying that must have been for him and I could not help but wonder where the bus driver was and what the other students were doing. Why didn’t anyone stop this? Perhaps, they were afraid that had they defended Jamie, they would be the next target. But what if the rest of the students banned together and stood up to the handful of cowards who were shoving batteries down his throat? That is what needs to happen.
I wonder how many more youth need to die before we start to make some serious changes. We cannot stand by and allow this to continue. If we do not make these lost lives purposeful then we are as irresponsible as the bullies. And we all need to be involved. Do not be a bystander.
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Originally published in The Whitewater Cobden Sun, October 26 2011.