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Anti-Bullying Week: Outlook anti-bullying bylaw helps town set example

Outlook may be setting the precedent with anti-bullying, anti-harassment law.

OUTLOOK - The Town of Outlook has had an anti-bullying and anti-harassment bylaw for two years now, and it's something that has helped the riverside community set an example for other communities around the province.

Created in 2022, Bylaw No. 02(2022), officially titled, 'A Bylaw of the Town of Outlook to Control Harassment and Bullying of Persons in the Town of Outlook, Known As the Anti-Bullying and Harassment Bylaw' has been a document that has not only helped the local RCMP in mediating matters related to the concerning patterns associated with bullying, but it's helped those in the community who may have felt like they didn't have anywhere to turn or anyone to confide in when they've had a troubling experience.

The town's chief administrative officer, Kevin Trew spoke with this reporter about the creation of the bylaw, and he was quick to give credit to Outlook RCMP officer Jesse Kimball in helping to lead the charge in what would become the town's official anti-bullying document.

"It was actually a request from the RCMP," explained Kevin. "Cst. Kimball had first contacted us and told us that she had some experience with this while being an RCMP officer in another detachment. She was familiar with other municipalities that were doing this and thought it would be a good fit for Outlook. One of the things that she thought would be helpful was that the RCMP had some limitations and they didn't have as many tools in their arsenal to be able to deal with harassment and bullying. So from there, what they were looking for were municipal bylaws because it would give the RMCP a tool for them to use so they could tell people, 'Did you know this town has an anti-bullying bylaw?' and this could possibly be an infraction, and there are things laid out where there could be amends made, that sort of thing. That was what the appeal to our council was; they saw this as an opportunity for the Town to give the RCMP a place to do some middle-ground work rather than go to the extremes, and maybe head some things off at the pass."

When you hear the word 'bullying', the odds are pretty good that your mind immediately thinks of kids horsing around on the playground. That's why when the bylaw was created, Trew thought that adding 'harassment' to the language was important as far as including all age groups in the conversation.

"I think the words 'bullying and harassment' have actually changed a lot in the last few years," he said. "When I was a kid, bullying was just between kids. But now as an adult, we talk about workplace bullying and harassment, and that's why our bylaw states Anti-Bullying and Anti-Harassment. Definitely, the RCMP wanted to use this in the schools, so there was some conversation and I know there were presentations at some schools regarding that. It's gotten full support from our council in order to try and nip bullying in the bud. What I've always said is that people who do harass and are bullies generally don't recognize that they ARE one, if it's left unchecked. We're all kind of caught in our own world where we don't see how we're treating others."

There are other communities that are starting to see the positives related to having some sort of document that protects its citizens, but Outlook is the only town around the immediate area with such a bylaw. At first, Trew didn't quite see why a local council would be involved in establishing such a bylaw, but he soon saw the bigger picture and knew that having a good relationship with the local RCMP was vital in helping such a new bylaw become established.

Cst. Jesse Kimball, seen here with Cst. Fraser Cameron, is being credited as a champion of Outlook's anti-bullying bylaw. Photo: Derek Ruttle/The Outlook

"My first reaction to this was, 'Why is this a bylaw for municipal council?'," he said. "To be fair, when it was first introduced to us as a possibility, I think most of council may have been like, 'We don't want to touch that'. But it wasn't because of the efforts surrounding harassment and bullying, it was more of just not seeing the place for municipalities in that sort of thing. But we also have to recognize what is and what isn't our authority, and what should we be worrying about. I haven't looked it up recently, but I want to say Kindersley or somewhere in that area has one. There really isn't many that have this, but we're not the only one. It is kind of a new thing, and I've talked to other administrators who had the same reaction; 'Why would we be involved in something like that?' As is the case with bylaws, enforcement gets to be a concern, but we also have the RCMP to enforce some of our bylaws, as well. It involves some sensitivities where I don't think administrators like me have the capacity, such as social work and sociology, and so it's something that the RCMP definitely has to be involved in."

Trew noted that he's heard a few comments from people on the bylaw, stating that this was a good move for Outlook and that people are proud to see the RCMP work with the Town in establishing the bylaw. He said that it was something that the town council found easy to support and gave much of the credit to Cst. Kimball in helping to lead the charge.

"It's hard for me to judge whether it makes Outlook stand out, but I can say that there have been residents of the community who actually made comment to myself or to council members that this was a really good move and they were proud that Outlook has this," he said. "Is it going to put Outlook on the map? I don't know about that, but it is fairly unique to us. The process could be put into place in any other community, but there does need to be someone who'll be a champion of it. In this case, Cst. Kimball was very much a champion of the bylaw, which is really great. To that extent, I think it makes us pretty special and it's within our strategic plan where we want to do things to put Outlook on the map and make it even more special for people to check out. It's important to have this bylaw, and it was something that we found easy to support."

The reaction to the bylaw's creation has been positive, but when one considers the flip side of that coin, you start to realize that in theory, no one can really be 'against' such a thing.

"I haven't heard anything negative surrounding it, but it's almost like you can't be against it," said Trew. "If you were to say, 'Oh, I'm against that anti-bullying bylaw', the rest of us would be like 'Whaa...?' and ask what that person's thought process was. To no surprise, no one has been against it and the only thing where I could've seen something would have been if someone just asked, 'Is there that need for it?' By doing this bylaw, we do know that there's harassment and bullying in the community, but it's something where people haven't felt comfortable talking about it for a long time. I think the reaction has all been good, and RCMP has been in contact with me and telling me that it's good to have this in Outlook. It's one of those things where we hope to never have to enforce anything related to bullying and harassment, but we hope that just the threat of having to enforce something is enough."

With many in the community feeling protected by Outlook's anti-bullying and anti-harassment bylaw, and others such as local teachers feeling happy that it further helps them in aiding kids at school, Trew says he could see other communities adapting their own such bylaws, should it be needed. As long as someone is able to pick up the proverbial torch and help lead the initiative, the support should be there from others in the community to see it happen.

"For certain, and I definitely welcome seeing that," he said. "There definitely needs to be a champion in the community to lead something like this, and I can't over-estimate the importance of someone championing a cause in the community. I think it's a great tool and it's something that could be used in other communities and municipalities, but everyone has to do what fits for them. It's having the people who are going to help develop it, establish it and enforce it. That's the piece that other towns are going to need if they're going down the same road."