It’s time to talk about bullying.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero decided last week she wanted to start the conversation, but more than that, she wanted those who have or are being bullied to know they are not to blame, and to understand it when it happens.
As part of International Women’s Day, she took part in several discussions about social issues, she said, and decided then she wanted to speak out herself on the subject of bullying. She also heard evidence and personal stories about the devastating results it can have on individuals at the recent women’s march in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“I’ve gone to all these events across the region, I’ve listened to the stories about people living through it and I wanted to contribute something. We’re hearing about it locally more and more — it seems to be happening more and more, and it shouldn’t be. I just felt compelled to say something.’’
There wasn’t one incident that propelled her to craft a message for NOTL, but a growing awareness of how prevalent bullying remains in today’s society. It’s not just in the school yard but on Facebook and in everyday life for so many people, she said.
“I think everyone has probably been bullied at some time in their lives,” she said.
In her early days in politics in Toronto, she would find personal attacks difficult, and would hide away from the public for a few days. But eventually she realized she didn’t need to do that anymore.
“I know now it’s not my issue,” she said. The problem, she added, lies with the person who is doing the bullying. And that’s her message to the victims: that bullies use a combination of strategies to manipulate their victims, and it’s important to recognize those tactics, which include creating chaos, spreading misinformation, using fear as a tool, and discouraging their victims from reaching out to authorities for help.
As a politician, she said, “I realize not everyone is going to agree with me, and in an ideal world, we can have a thoughtful discussion and work out a reasonable solution. But in the real world, that’s not in everyone’s nature.”
The current council is new, and there is no question mistakes will be made, but bylaws can be adjusted, she said, and if members of the public are concerned, “we can start that conversation.” As an example, she pointed out last week they made some changes to the tree bylaw, which has had some residents upset, and they will continue to look at it and adjust it if necessary.
To those who take issue with decisions of council, she said in her message, “we are all here and ready to work with you and for you, with the support of 90-plus members of Town staff.
“We will counteract chaos with calm. We will neutralize misinformation with facts. We will soothe fears by listening, and we will build trust by acting on what we hear.”
To read Lord Mayor Betty Disero’s full message on bullying, go to https://notl.civicweb.net/document/13318