York partners in a new national network to address bullying

The issue of bullying is getting serious attention with the establishment of a unique national network to address bullying problems and promote healthy relationships among children. The new network, which was announced yesterday, will be led by York and Queen’s Universities and is the first of its kind in Canada. It will lay the groundwork for a national strategy to address bullying and other relationship problems among children and youth.

A collaborative and interdisciplinary initiative, the network brings together 23 university researchers from 17 Canadian universities and 34 national non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The partners will share up-to-date scientific knowledge and research expertise, build awareness of bullying and aggression problems, plot strategies, inform public policy making, and shift attitudes on an issue that matters to Canadians.

The network is called PREVNet — Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network. It will be headed by Professor Debra Pepler of York University’s LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution, and Professor Wendy Craig of Queen’s University, both are renowned international experts on bullying. The network’s goal is to change society by working with governments and NGOs to reduce the use of power and aggression in relationships.

“Bullying is a significant social and health problem for children and young people in Canada,” said Pepler. “In recent years, there have been many severe cases where children have died or been seriously injured due to bullying. These tragedies have helped us understand how serious these problems are, and we recognize the need for a national strategy to address them.”

“Through our network of partnerships, we aim to promote mental and physical health among children and youth, healthy relationships, engagement with their schools, and crime prevention,” explained Craig. “We will develop educational, assessment, and intervention tools, as well as policies related to bullying that can be implemented in communities everywhere in Canada.”

The need for a national strategy on bullying is underscored by a recent World Health Organization survey, which ranked Canada a disappointing 26th in bullying, and 27th in victimization, among the 35 countries assessed. Across all ages and categories of bullying and victimization, Canada consistently ranked at or below average among those countries.

The project will receive $800,000 over the next two years to support the networking activities of established research groups who will develop new partnerships with organizations and communities that can benefit from the shared knowledge. The network is one of five national initiatives to receive federal funding from the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE). Maxime Bernier, minister of industry and minister responsible for the NCE, announced on Monday, a round of new investments of $4 million over two years for projects connected to NCE.

The new network is unique because it focuses not only on bullying but also on developing and promoting children’s relationships with a community-based approach. “Bullying doesn’t come out of nowhere, and this broader research into children’s relationships, conducted by the diversity of partnerships in our network, ensures that bullying problems will be addressed with a consistent understanding and approach in all the places that Canadian children and youth live, work, and play,” said Pepler. “Although schools play a key role, we believe that bullying is a community problem, and that’s why we have assembled such a range of agencies and non-governmental organizations, along with educators, to address the problem.”

“It is absolutely vital for children and youth in our country to feel safe in their communities and schools, and healthy relationships with other children are key to their healthy development,” said Craig. “We’re excited to announce this pioneering initiative that brings together the talent and knowledge of so many groups dedicated to a better future for our children. PREVNet will help us to develop a consistency of message and approach across the country.”

“This investment by the federal government reflects the importance of collaboration between universities and organizations from all sectors to address public policy issues that matter to all Canadians. It is a testament to the strength of research at York University,” said Stan Shapson, York University’s vice-president research & innovation. “York will play a key research and leadership role within this groundbreaking, interdisciplinary, research network while ensuring that its results lead to improved public policy making and a safer and healthier childhood for young people across Canada.”

Partnering organizations include: Canadian Principals Association, Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, Kids Help Phone, Girl Guides of Canada, Canadian Association of Social Workers, Canadian Parks and Recreation, and The Hospital for Sick Children. For a complete list of partnering organizations, visit York University’s LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution Web site.  

Networks of Centres of Excellence are unique partnerships among universities, industry, government and not-for-profit organizations aimed at turning Canadian research and entrepreneurial talent into economic and social benefits for all Canadians. For more details visit the Networks of Centres of Excellence Web site.