Mounties in British Columbia have launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the apparent suicide of Port Coquitlam teenager Amanda Todd.
Sergeant Peter Thiessen, a spokesman for the Lower Mainland District RCMP, said serious crime teams from both the Coquitlam and Ridge Meadows RCMP detachments are conducting interviews and reviewing potential contributing factors to the 15-year-old’s death.
“We will be looking into any past events that had occurred in this young girl’s life, any individuals she may have been in contact with through social media, face-to-face,” he said. “Anything and everything around her life, really, and what components of that may have played a role in her making this decision.”
Those with information are asked to contact police through an e-mail account created specifically for the case: AmandaTODDinfo@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.
The RCMP’s involvement will come as heartening news to those who have renewed calls for bullying to be a crime in the wake of the high-profile suicide. Weeks before her tragic death on Wednesday, Amanda had posted to YouTube a heartbreaking video detailing her years of being bullied, both in person and online.
Bullying itself is not considered an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada; however, many elements of it are, including assault, uttering threats and criminal harassment.
While Sgt. Thiessen said it is too soon to comment specifically on Amanda’s case, he noted bullying is the RCMP’s second-biggest youth issue, behind substance abuse.
Meanwhile, B.C. Premier Christy Clark said the horrific bullying that preceded Amanda’s death needs to be countered with education, not legislation.
Ms. Clark, in a CBC News interview, said she was disturbed by the events recounted in Amanda’s video. But the Premier dismissed a suggestion to strengthen laws to allow police to trace cyber-bullies through the Internet.
“We do need to be careful about creating laws that are going to impinge on people's privacy and freedom of speech. I think that's an important principle we need to preserve as well,” said Ms. Clark, who has campaigned for years against bullying.
“This situation is awful, it's tragic … but at the same time we need to remember the solution to the problem is going to be education."
Ms. Clark’s government announced a series of anti-bullying initiatives in the education system last June, including new training that will help educators detect and intervene in instances of bullying.
In a landmark case in March, 2002, a 16-year-old girl was found guilty of criminal harassment for uttering a series of threats to Dawn-Marie Wesley, a 14-year-old Mission girl who killed herself shortly after.
Dawn-Marie’s mother, Cindy, said at the time the ruling “was for every child in this country who's been bullied.”
When the BC Coroners Service has completed its investigation, Amanda’s file will be forwarded to its Child Death Review Unit, which is in the process of establishing a multidisciplinary panel of experts to assist in high-risk childhood youth cases, coroner Barbara McLintock said.
“The idea will be that complex or difficult cases can be referred by the Child Death Review Unit to that panel and those panel members, the best minds on these complex cases in the province, will make recommendations to the chief coroner,” she said.
Experts will come from areas including the Ministry of Child and Family Development, the school system and police, she said. It is likely that panel will review Amanda’s death.
<i>With a report from Justine Hunter</i>