A few weeks ago, the province of Manitoba approved Bill 18 a controversial amendment to the Public Schools Act despite the fact that 300 people spoke out demanding amendments. For months the issue of bullying, protecting children, protecting religious rights and freedoms and allegations of hidden agendas have plagued local media and social media.
I have deliberately remained mute on this issue. The advantage of working freelance is that while my editor may send me stories to cover, I also have a choice on which issues I really want to pursue, and which I want to sit back and watch. Bill 18 was one I choose to watch.
Not because I was scared, or it was too controversial, but because for once, I found myself unable to write about it without becoming biased. You see, I have my own story to tell; and boy did I ever. On September 10, I stood before the Committee and poured out my heart. I recalled how I was bullied while attending school in Steinbach. Bullying is not the right word – I was tormented.
I won’t get into the horrific details but as I gave my presentation, it hit me – if I’d grown up during the time of social media, I probably would not be sitting here today.
Standing before those MLA’s, not as a reporter but as a victim took a lot of courage. It was the first time that I verbally called out the school division for failing to see past the obvious. I was not a problem child – I was an abused, broken child; someone that should have been protected and helped. Instead, I was tossed aside, considered hopeless and life moved on for my classmates and educators alike. I was just a broken cog in the system.
It took decades of healing to get past what I suffered at the hands of my classmates. My home situation was less than stellar so my challenges were many.
I would like to say that things have changed in thirty years, but watching all the comments, discussions and debates taking place throughout the region, I find myself sorely disappointed. You would think society would be kinder, but it is not. There are still children killing themselves because they feel that’s the only way out.
I for one, am grateful that Bill 18 has passed; I believe that it will be revisited and amended as time goes on, but in the meantime the groundwork has been laid to at least start protecting other kids like me.
Thank you to everyone who had the courage to share their stories; our voices have been heard.