‘Bullying is a criminal behaviour ... we are waiting too long to do something.'
It's been a number of years since Truro's Leana Todd has seen her niece Amanda, as pictured in this photo from the mid-2000s. Leana is devastated her niece committed suicide in relation to severe bullying and she's now rallying the community to do something about the issue. Submitted photo
TRURO - Leana Todd feels sick her to stomach when she thinks about the bullying that caused her niece to end her young life.
Amanda Todd, 15, who was living in Coquitlam, B.C., was Leana's niece. Leana said the teenager committed suicide last Wednesday, a month after posting a YouTube video detailing her experiences with online and offline bullying.
Leana is devastated the bullying resulted in her niece's death.
"I'm sick to my stomach. I felt like I was being bullied myself when I heard about it ... she felt she'd never escape," the bullying, Leana told the Truro Daily News on Sunday.
Leana said she hadn't seen her niece in seven or eight years but she has many fond memories of Amanda, including her singing.
"She loved to sing and was really spunky and fun," said Leana. "And she was brave to put up her struggles on Youtube."
In one Youtube video, Amanda told her story, using cue cards only, in a heart-wrenching video that chronicled her nightmare. The emotional torture included verbal abuse, beatings, a cyber-stalker who tracked her down whenever she tried to start afresh at a new school and who posted images of her showing off her body after feeling flattered by online attention. She also admitted to feeling anxiety and depression and experimenting with drugs and alcohol and cutting herself.
At one point in the video, using the cards, she communicated about youth beating her and "I just went and layed in a ditch and my dad found me." When she went home with her dad, she drank bleach in an attempt to kill herself, but was saved after a rushed trip to the hospital.
Knowing the horror of what Amanda experienced has made Leana all the more determined to strive to put an end to bullying. Leana is organizing a community candlelight vigil in Victoria Park this Friday night at 6 p.m., stressing the gathering, which is open to everyone, is more than just keeping a memory alive. She wants it to be a major stance in the fight against bullying, which she believes is a criminal act that needs to be stopped now.
"I'm trying really hard to put my anger into doing good things rather than retaliation. Bullying is a criminal behaviour in my point of view ... and I'd like to see legislation passed on it. It's an epidemic ... people are dying," said Leana. "We are waiting too long to do something and it breaks my heart because this didn't have to happen (with Amanda). This is the new face of violence. It's scary to be raising children."
The vigil service and rally will include guest speakers Colchester North MLA Karen Casey, Truro-Bible Hill MLA Lenore Zann, and the Cyberbullying Task Force from the Truro Police Service. The local service, which is one of many expected to be held across the country Friday night, will also include a moment of silence, music and potentially mental health speakers. Leana believes there will be at the very least 200 people in attendance.
She hopes the rally will inspire a long-lasting fight against bullying, one which will also motivate local communities to take a no-tolerance policy with bullying.
Meanwhile, there are reports that the RCMP indicate at least 25 investigators are working on Amanda's case. RCMP said they received more than 400 tips from around the world as they try to identify the bullies related to her case. They're also getting complaints about what they call hurtful comments and images posted online since Amanda's death.
Leana said she refuses to look at the hurtful comments and videos.