Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic June 14, 2012 - 1:33 pm

NAHO website sets sights on curbing bullying among aboriginal youth

Bullying a “major problem among Aboriginal youth in Canada"

DAVID MURPHY
These Inuksuk High School students — left to right, Brittany Masson, Neoma Kippomee-Cox, Nigel Audla, Julia MacDonald, Janice Tagak, and Mary Anole — started an anti-bullying group in their school this past September. (FILE PHOTO)
These Inuksuk High School students — left to right, Brittany Masson, Neoma Kippomee-Cox, Nigel Audla, Julia MacDonald, Janice Tagak, and Mary Anole — started an anti-bullying group in their school this past September. (FILE PHOTO)

A National Aboriginal Health Organization website is calling bullying a “major problem among aboriginal youth in Canada” and aims to wipe out “lateral violence” when the “oppressed become the oppressors” in aboriginal communities.

The website was created to provide information for aboriginal people to halt bullying among themselves, something NAHO says many recognize as a major issue for First Nations, Inuit and Métis across Canada.

“Bullying among aboriginal people is a form of lateral violence and has caused a rift among our peoples which we can see coming out in our children’s behavior,” said NAHO’s acting CEO Simon Brascoupé in a June 13 news release.

NAHO says lateral violence — a form of bullying — is harmful behaviour done to an oppressed group, within families or communities, or when “people who are victims of a situation of dominance turn on each other instead of confronting the system that oppresses them.”

“With lateral violence the oppressed become the oppressors,” said Allen Benson, the CEO of native counseling services of Alberta in a slideshow on the new NAHO bullying website. 

Forms of what’s called lateral violence include simple things like eyebrow-raising and face making, snide remarks, bickering and a failure to respect privacy.

NAHO says bullying effects people not just in the short term, but can have life long repercussions too.

Other effects of bullying can range from mental health issues, low self-confidence, and an expectation of bullying in other forms of life outside of school mimicked by those previously bullied.

Racism is a main focus on the website, too. Family differences, bullying people for not looking aboriginal, or having a lighter or darker skin tone and name calling are addressed as concerns in aboriginal communities.

“We’ve internalized the pain of colonization and our oppression and we’ve taken it into our communities in the factionalisation and in the gossip and talk of blood quantum — ‘you’re half-blood,’ etc.” said Benson.

People who are bullied are recommended to talk about it to a trusted friend or adult — but are encouraged not to fight back when bullying does occur for fear of worsening the situation.

The website has recommended case studies that can be presented to a group of students and lesson plans for instructors as well. There are also fact sheets for parents, teachers, and youth to help them tackle bullying issues.

Culturally specific resources are available on the website to offer assistance to those currently being bullied, too.

In a survey conducted by marketing research group Harris/Decima for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada showed 50 per cent of Canadian adults were bullied as a teenager and 87 per cent of those surveyed think actions to reduce bullying strengthens communities over time.

Terry Young, the principal at Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit, says that while bullying will always be around, the situation with respect to bullying has improved at his school.

“Compared to five to 10 years ago? It’s much, much calmer — no comparison,” said Young.

He’s been principal at the school for 12 years now and says that when he got there, students were very aggressive.

“We see a lot less of that now,” said Young. “Bullying is a fact of life. It goes on everywhere, but we got a pretty good handle on it.”

His students were apart of an April 11 Canada-wide anti-bullying campaign called “pink shirt day” to raise awareness to the issue.

An anti-bullying group was also established. They identified and confronted bullies at the school, which helped a great deal said Young.

“That was as effective or more effective than we could have ever been. Just the peer pressure, the – ‘do you realize what you’re doing’ sort-of attitude helped,” said Young.

“Kids want to take ownership and stand as a group, I see a lot more of that now.”

As for NAHO, on June 29, the organization shuts down after learning in April that Health Canada wouldn’t renew its $5-million budget.

The NAHO website will remain static, NAHO said June 11, but will be available to community members, healthcare practitioners, government, scholars and the public for five years beyond NAHO’s closing date. NAHO’s YouTube and SlideShare accounts will also remain available.

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