ECA Review Reporter
Hanna has joined the growing list of municipalities in Alberta that holds bullies legally accountable for their actions.
The anti-bullying by-law, which passed third and final reading by Hanna Town Council on Tuesday, November 13, gives police and peace officers the power to intervene on behalf of victims.
According to Hanna Mayor Mark Nikota, the by-law was created on the advice of the RCMP, who until now had no legal recourse to deal with bullies.
“If they got a complaint, all they could do was talk to the person,” Nikota told the Review. “They were looking for something with some teeth.”
Constable Jennifer Brewer of the Hanna RCMP detachment was the one who initially brought the idea of an anti-bullying by-law to council to address the increasing number of cases that were finding their way onto her desk.
“I had seen quite a few people coming into our office not happy with the way things are going,” Cst. Brewer said. “Their children were being bullied and we couldn’t do anything about it.”
Until now, police were only able to intervene in cases that involved a Criminal Code offence, such as theft or assault. Police could only talk to the parties involved or arrange mediation sessions — both with little impact. The by-law allows police to intervene before the bullying involves a criminal code offence.
“We now have the power to issue a ticket to the aggressor on behalf of the victim,” said Cst. Brewer.
According to the by-law, first offenders are subject to a penalty of $100 upon conviction. For subsequent offences, the fine rises to a figure not exceeding $250, with escalation to six months in jail if the offender defaults on the fine. The tickets may be issued by both the RCMP and Peace Officers.
The by-law defines bullying as the “harassment of others by the real or threatened infliction of physical violence and attacks, racially or ethnically based verbal abuse and gender-based put-downs, verbal taunts, name calling and put-downs and social outcasting, emotional abuse and the extortion or stealing of money.” Online bullying is also covered by the by-law.
The by-law, according to Cst. Brewer, is based on a similar by-law adopted by the Town of Consort earlier this year.
Both police and council are pleased with the passing of the by-law, and are confident that the measure will reduce the number of bullying cases in the town. Currently, the town has a policy against bullying in municipally-owned facilities, but the extent of that policy is removal of the person from the facility.
The by-law covers bullying in most public places, including schools.