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A united front against bullying

Baker Lake youth council discusses Pink Shirt Day’s importance
Members of Baker Lake’s youth council gather for a photo. From top left are Vicky Nakoolak, Mary Ikuutaq, David Kalluk and Kailey Kayuryuk. Photo courtesy of Rachel Tagoona-Tapatai

Vicky Nakoolak, 14, from Baker Lake, thinks Pink Shirt Day is important.

“It spreads awareness about bullying,” said Nakoolak, who participated in a roundtable interview with Kivalliq News and other members of Baker Lake’s youth council.

She suggested stepping away from a bully and talking to a teacher, principal, staff member or friend about what’s going on.

“There’s lots of pushing,” she mentioned about bullying in school.

David Kalluk, 14, said awareness helps because bullying can impact people’s mental health. He suggests ignoring bullying to the extent possible and said there isn’t too much of it in school.

Mary Ikuutaq, 16, remarked, “Pink Shirt Day is important because it recognizes the importance of standing against bullying.”

The typical bullying she sees happens in the hallways or outside during school hours, and it’s often the bully talking quietly to the victim when no one else is around.

Sixteen-year-old Gavin Tugak said, “In the school here, most of the bullying happens in the bathroom.

“It’s where nobody can really see, and that’s when they have the chance of really bothering or pushing you, or have the chance of punching you.”

Kailey Kayuryuk, 16, suggests leaving the vicinity if you’re getting bullied.

“Just walk away from the person that’s bullying you,” she said.

When it comes to cyberbullying, youth agreed to screenshot negative messages and tell an adult.

“When I see bullying on social media I usually tell their parents or ask why they’re bullying the person,” said Ikuutaq.

Rachel Tagoona-Tapatai, youth coordinator and youth council resource person, grew up in Baker Lake and said bullying can seem harder to prevent these days.

“When I was younger, I feel like with less social media, there was less bullying altogether,” she said.

Tagoona-Tapatai recommended that anyone being bullied speak up and say, “No,” while using unprovocative language.

“When you say no, it sort of shocks the person that’s doing the bullying,” she said.

As Tagoona-Tapatai has become a central figure for youth in the community, many of them have added her on social media, where she sometimes sees cyberbullying taking place. In those cases, she supports the victim and also reaches out to the bully, asking questions about what they’re doing to “bring them back to reality.”

As an adult now, Tagoona-Tapatai likes to make youth aware of her presence at the youth centre and know their behaviour is being watched. She said she doesn’t notice much bullying under her watch because of that, with most of it happening in unsupervised areas. She added that the youth doing the bullying often don’t even comprehend that’s what they’re doing.

“I always try to include the kids that are doing the bullying because most of the time, the kids that are doing the bullying are just misunderstood,” she said. “I feel like they need some sort of attention and guidance that they can’t find elsewhere.”

Pink Shirt Day is observed on Wednesday, Feb. 28, when people are encouraged to wear pink as a show of solidarity against bullying.