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Government feared ‘copycat’ suicides if Todd's mother joined conference

Undated Facebook photo of Amanda Todd, the B.C. teenager who committed suicide after being bullied online and in person.

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The B.C. government is defending itself against complaints from Amanda Todd's mother that she was not invited to the province's high-profile anti-bullying summit.

Education Minister Don McRae said experts advised conference planners that Carol Todd's presence might have triggered a "copycat [suicide] response" among fragile young bullying victims who attended Tuesday's conference.

"The risk … was there," Mr. McRae told reporters, as controversy swirled over Ms. Todd's absence. "As Minister of Education, and a parent, I couldn't live with myself if there were unintended consequences."

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However, one of the experts advising the government said he would have allowed Ms. Todd to attend, if she had pressed the matter.

"Hopefully, you would like her to see that it would be better if she were not there," said Kevin Cameron, director of the Canadian Centre for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response. "But had she [made it] very clear that she wanted to be there, and that she wanted to participate, I never would have stood in her way."

Premier Christy Clark was the prime sponsor of Tuesday's day-long ERASE Bullying Summit, spurred by last month's suicide of Amanda Todd. The 15-year-old's poignant video outlining the protracted bullying she endured over several years has been viewed by millions of people around the world.

Ms. Todd initially accepted the government's reasons for not inviting her. They were explained to her over the phone last Thursday, as she sat in her car in a parkade.

But as the days passed, and friends expressed surprise she was not attending, Ms. Todd decided to voice her unhappiness.

"In my heart, I really wanted to be there. It was something that interested me," she said in interview. "I first accepted the government's decision, because they made it sound like a fait accompli. ... I'm not a pushy person. I didn't want to beg. I just wanted to be there."

Ms. Todd noted that Ms. Clark, in pressing for stronger measures to combat the scourge of bullying, has referred many times to Amanda's suicide, including a suggestion during a postsummit scrum with reporters that Amanda would have wanted society to learn from her fate.

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"If you're going to use my daughter's name to endorse whatever you're talking about, then at least invite the parents," said Amanda's mother, currently on leave from her teaching positing with the Coquitlam School District. "You shouldn't make a statement like, 'this is what Amanda would have wanted,' because I'm her mom."

Mr. Cameron said the anti-bullying summit was purposefully tailored to avoid focusing on Amanda's suicide. There was a need to lower the anxiety level from the highly publicized trauma of that event, in order to encourage more open discussion among the young people in attendance, he said. "It could generate more anxiety and trigger a response."

As well, Mr. Cameron said, other parents who have lost children to suicide may resent all the attention paid to the Amanda Todd tragedy. "They have suffered, too, and you don't want them to feel that you're weighing one death against another," he said.

Mr. McRae said he will meet Monday with Ms. Todd to give her a full report on the anti-bullying summit.

Meanwhile, a public memorial and celebration of Amanda's brief life will be held Sunday in Coquitlam at the the Red Robinson Show Theatre. She would have turned 16 on Friday.

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