Essex tackles bullying in town parks and facilities

The crowd cheers for their Essex 73's at the Essex Centre Sports Complex on March 17, 2015. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

If you are in a park in Essex, you better be respectful.

The town council has unanimously approved an anti-bullying campaign after Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche introduced a notice of motion to take action on the issue at a meeting last month. Meloche told in an interview Wednesday that the campaign has widespread support from residents and from the administration.

Meloche’s notice of motion read, “When people no longer feel comfortable or safe going to town facilities as they feel intimidated by others actions, it is important the town look at measures to ensure all its facilities are safe and enjoyable for all to use.”

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The deputy mayor added that a previous version concerning profanity was dropped since the focus was keeping bullying under control.

The campaign would involve social media, staff training, and signage at town facilities warning visitors bullying behaviour will not be tolerated. Posters will also go up in all indoor and outdoor facilities that include the OPP non-emergency number for anyone who wants to report aggressive behaviour. Meloche said the campaign is loosely based on similar ones in the Greater Toronto Area, and that the non-emergency number is being emphasized to discourage people from calling 911 if the situation is not a life-or-death emergency.

The town’s Department of Community Services will work with sports organizations to promote the message, and the Ontario Provincial Police has increased its presence at facilities where bullying has already been reported.

Recreation staff already get some training on what to do, but those sessions will not include annual parks staff.

-With files from Mark Brown