Pink Day anti-bullying campaign draws millions of participants worldwide

More than eight million people have registered online to participate in the fifth annual Day of Pink on April 11, a global campaign against bullying, homophobia and discrimination.

The international movement, celebrated annually on the second Wednesday of April, began five years ago in Nova Scotia when a gay student was bullied for wearing pink to school.

Two fellow students decided to intervene by purchasing pink shirts and encouraging other students to do the same. Just a few days later, much of the student body came to school wearing pink as they stood in solidarity against homophobic and transphobic bullying.

Support for the cause has grown into the millions just five short years later. Jer's Vision, the volunteer group behind the campaign, were forced to upgrade their online servers due to the massive volume of online registrations, which stem from Canada and the U.S. to countries as far as Pakistan, Iran and Russia.

"It's really exciting to see people standing up and getting involved," said Dias in the Ottawa Citizen, noting that some participants reside in countries where engaging in same-sex sexual activities is illegal.

Canadian schools, including some in Toronto and Ottawa, have planned to hold bake sales and put up campaign posters to encourage students and staff to get involved. The Toronto District School Board has gone above and beyond, encouraging every institution from schools to businesses and community organizations to participate.

The Day of Pink may be particularly poignant for the people of Ottawa. Communities in the region are still reeling from the death of 15-year-old Jamie Haubley, the openly gay son of a local Councillor who took his own life in October 2011.

"It definitely is an ongoing reminder for us as community members to engage with youth," said Dias. "This event remembers the reasons why we're doing what we're doing, but it also celebrates the lives that we've saved."

Dias, who founded Jer's Vision using proceeds from a human rights settlement between he and the northern Ontario school board, was given an Ottawa city builder award earlier this year. Holding forums and workshops at community schools across the country, Jer's Vision works to prevent bullying, homophobia, transphobia and discrimination.

The volunteer group will be hosting gala at the University of Ottawa Wednesday night where they plan to recognize CBC TV personality Rick Mercer and the late NDP leader Jack Layton.

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(Screengrab Day of Pink)