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Tlicho welcomes anti-bullying workshops
'There's a lot of bullying and we need to do something about it': Wekweeti resident

Katie May
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, February 20, 2010

NWT - Bullying is a big problem across the North, especially in small communities and not just among children, a community wellness specialist has found.

NNSL photo/graphic

Students at Wekweeti's Alexis Arrowmaker School anti-bullying workshop Feb. 19, facilitated by Susan Buchanan of Nova Scotia-based company Clarior Consulting. Back row, from left: Beazoa Football, Logan Judas, Nathaniel Kotchilea. Front row, from left: Rocky Laboline, Sky Football and Lila Judas. Buchanan is travelling across the Tlicho giving similar workshops over the next couple of weeks. - photo courtesy of Susan Buchanan

Susan Buchanan, creator of a bullying prevention program with her Nova Scotia-based wellness company Clarior Consulting, is travelling through the Tlicho region this month to teach residents young and old about how to stop bullying in schools, at home and in the community.

During her stop in Wekweeti on Thursday, Buchanan said she has delivered the anti-bullying workshops to students, teachers, parents and daycare workers across Canada and has noticed bullying starts at home, even in close-knit families of the Tlicho region. Her most important piece of advice for parents is "to make sure that they are spending really, really good quality time with their children teaching them about relationships and friendship skills and problem-solving skills. Shutting the TV off, shutting the computer off and going back to really, really good conversations with the children," she said.

The Tlicho government paid for Buchanan to give the workshops, which Wekweeti resident Marie Adele Football said her community was glad to learn from.

"In the four Tlicho communities, there's a lot of bullying and we need to do something about it and teach our kids starting from a young age," said Football, who works with youth and elders through the Tlicho Community Services Agency and with young mothers as part of the prenatal program.

"I can't just say it's young kids it's elders, too. They don't know they're bullying, but we know they are," she added. A group of Wekweeti elders showed up to the community's anti-bullying workshop on Feb. 17.

"They wanted to know what causes bullying so they came and stayed until the end. And also, some guys came too. It's good to see some men in a workshop like this," Football said. "We didn't know there were so many mistakes we were making with our kids, so we're going to start getting together (regularly) and talking about it to see what we can do to stop the bullying." In the classroom, Buchanan teaches students non-violent ways of dealing with a bully, including standing tall, looking a bully in the eye, walking away and telling a trustworthy adult.

"You can stop someone from bullying you, but it does take a long time and you'll have to keep trying over and over again because they're trying to take your power and you have to keep it," Buchanan tells students. In Whati, where Buchanan led the workshop earlier last week, Mezi Community School Principal Blair Hagman said students have begun using social networking sites to bully other students.

"Bullying in all communities, not just Northern communities, is an issue in small towns because you have family groups that can have some history in the past that causes them to bully each other and lots of gossip does happen," he said. "When that breeds in a small community, it gets worse and worse because if parents are doing it, the kids are going to do it. In this community, you can see it. Specifically in the school, you see it through new technology."

"When it's not face to face, it's easier to do," he added.

To combat bullying within schools, Hagman said teachers are trying to help students develop self-confidence and social skills.

"When students don't have the confidence and the social skills that are appropriate, they react (by) bullying because they're looking for attention."

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