Port Coquitlam, British Columbia — a smallish suburb of Vancouver — is known for couple of things.
The city's most famous son is none other than Terry Fox who — of course — is the namesake of the annual run which raises money and awareness for cancer research in over 60 countries around the world.
Coincidentally, 'PoCo' was also where bullying victim Amanda Todd lived.
Todd, the 15-year-old whose YouTube plea for help reached over 6 million views made international headlines after her suicide in October.
If Amanda's mother Carol and a group of enterprising anti-bullying activists have their way, Amanda's death is going to do for bullying — in at least a national sense — that Terry Fox did for cancer research.
Todd is part of the group launching the 'I am Someone' campaign which will provide tools and resources to youth that are victims of bullying. The innovative program includes education for parents, a text-messaging platform, an anti-bullying bylaw with fines ranging from $200-$2,000, and an annual awareness walk and fundraiser.
Yahoo! Canada News met with Todd and 'I am Someone' founder Gary Mauris on Tuesday in Port Coquitlam.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
About the media attention since her daughter's death:
Todd: The amount of media attention has been interesting.
The first two weeks were horrendous — I had lots of people [who contacted] me and I chose to only speak to a couple of media outlets. In retrospect I don't know if I could of done more.
I had no idea the death of my daughter or whatever she did on that YouTube video was going get all this attention. Everything has taken a life of its own -- in a good way. In such a positive way.
So when you go back to the media stuff and the sensationalism...
I've seen and I've heard so many more people that after Amanda passed away that all of the sudden they're talking about [bullying] at their kitchen table and this wouldn't haven't have happened if the media hadn't brought all this attention.
About the anti-Amanda on-line postings and Facebook pages that have sprouted up since her daughter's death:
Todd: What surprises me is the amount of people out there that are still posting vile and disgusting things [about Amanda] like creating Facebook pages, Twitter sites.
Someone just found one this weekend with [a picture of] Amanda and a bottle of bleach and making all these comments and people are feeding into it.
That really surprises me — I mean those are bullies, and bullying behaviour.
I'm sad about it. I'm not angry. I'm saddened that there are individuals out there who don't respect themselves or the world to do this stuff.
People out there try to protect me — they don't want me to look at it. But I think it fuels me and it makes me stronger to continue on the legacy and to make sure that things are done in order to change the world. In Amanda's memory.
About how being involved in the 'I am Someone' campaign has helped her through the grieving process:
Todd: Someone said this: that she didn't die in vain. Those aren't my words, they're someone else's words. But to know that her legacy lives on and that she's woken up the world to a big problem makes me so proud that she was able to do that.
She's not around so someone has to do it for her. That would be me — her mother, right.
I wouldn't take back any of things that I've done as a parent in the last 8 weeks because it's all been for good.
Her advice to parents of bullied children:
Todd: You need to open the doors of communication so your kids will talk to you and not have fear that you're going to get mad or that you're too busy.
The other thing is that if you're a parent and you feel your kids can't talk to you ... ensure that your child has 3 to 4 adults that they can trust or talk to. Whether its a teacher, an aunt, a pastor at a church ... someone that your child can go easily too and talk to.
When children internalize, that's when you have to be careful about them not talking to anyone.
About the impetus for the 'I am Someone' campaign:
Mauris:. We realize that government is not going to solve this problem [of bullying].
This has to be solved by local business people driving community initiatives with the help of their local city halls with the help of the RCMP with the help of the local school district. It was originally set up to build a community blueprint.
We built as a blueprint to give to other communities to use and adopt ... I'd like to see it adopted by every single city across Canada.
So Port Coquitlam can deal with bullying in Port Coquitlam but Windsor can deal with bullying in Windsor, Richmond Hill can deal with it in Richmond Hill, and Vancouver in Vancouver…
We're already working with 6 to 8 communities who are working to roll this out.
Todd: Amanda felt she was all alone, however when you look at the bullying and the depression and what all mitigated this — she had her family she had her friends, her teachers.
She had people around her but she had this cloud that she felt all alone. So the premise is that when someone sees someone that is sitting alone or they feel alone go be someone and be with that person. And then they become people: I am someone — We are someone.
It's about paying-it-forward. That's something my daughter always believed in. She was always giving back. So this is just another step in her legacy.
Previous Wednesday One-on-One interviews:
- Nikki Yanofsky advises bullied teens to 'believe'
- Senator Pamela Wallin defends the upper house
- Former BQ leader Gilles Duceppe 'not impressed' with Justin Trudeau
About the innovative bully 'texting' platform:
Mauris: Very few kids want to call a crisis line or want to report bullying on the phone.
We're building a mobile program called the 'I Care Program' where if I'm being bullied I can text that. And that text copy will go to the school councilors, it will go to the RCMP liaison officer in my community, and it will be stored centrally.
It can also go to your crisis mode — to the kid's helpline which will actually intervene.
We're working through the code now so we can make sure that when someone is reaching out their responded to in a timely manner.
The wish-list for the program — it's ready to launch early in new year — if you're at Mary Hill Junior Secondary school you can say I'm behind the gymnasium being bullied by Andy and the [school] councilor can come out and have a discussion with the bully.
It just gives kids an outlet to actually reach-out.
For more information about the 'I am Someone' Campaign please visit www.iamsomeone.ca.
The inaugural 'Snowflake Walk' will take place in Port Coquitlam on Sunday, Dec.9.
The Wednesday One-on-One appears each Wednesday
On Yahoo! Canada News.