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B.C. cop shares pain of being bullied

Spends vacation time travelling to schools

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RCMP Const. Tad Milmine talks to a gym full of students at Grant Park High School Monday about growing up a victim of bullying.

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RCMP Const. Tad Milmine talks to a gym full of students at Grant Park High School Monday about growing up a victim of bullying. Photo Store

Was it a seminal moment in a student's young life?

There was RCMP Const. Tad Milmine Monday morning, opening up about his bullied and abused younger life to a school assembly at Grant Park High School, and then telling them about a gay boy in Ottawa who took his own life.

And when Milmine opened up the floor, one girl declared: "I'm bisexual, and I have a crush on another girl."

Students and teachers burst out in resounding applause.

Milmine is a 39-year-old police officer in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey, but he spends his vacation time touring schools to talk about the life-saving necessity of speaking up and seeking help if kids are a victim or see someone else being victimized.

Milmine's childhood in Cambridge, Ont., was horrendous. His mother left when he was five, leaving him with an alcoholic father who soon found a new partner whom Milmine calls the devil -- a woman who verbally and physically abused him constantly, consigned him to a basement room and forbade him any friends or activities.

Other kids soon picked up that bullying and would bring on tears from little Tad, and kept it up through elementary school and into senior high school.

"All you had to do was call me a couple of bad names and I was going to lose it.

"Victims don't speak," said Milmine, who didn't tell his Cambridge school what was happening at home and didn't tell his father and stepmother what was happening at school. No one ever asked if he was OK.

"By the time I was 16, I was as low as you can go. I was depressed," he thought then.

"Depression isn't as low as you can go -- suicide is."

Milmine was 17 when he found the gumption to turn himself over to social services and went into a shelter, never seeing his father and stepmother again. The first day he went back to school, he didn't let the bullies get to him: They went on to the next victim, he said.

But after drifting through 20-some retail jobs, Milmine believed, "You're supposed to dream your dreams, not achieve them."

He was 32 when he met a police officer who urged him to apply.

With family permission, Milmine told the story of an Ottawa student and accomplished figure skater Jamie Hubley, who killed himself after years of physical and verbal homophobic torment through a series of schools.

No one ever helped.

"I would have done anything I could to help him, if I'd known him," Milmine told the Grant Park students.

"Bullying is not a virus, it's not a disease -- you are the problem" if you're the one terrorizing a fellow student, he said,

Victim or bystander, "Just simply let an adult know what you saw, what you experienced," he said.

Grant Park students said later the infamous code of silence in schools, the overwhelming peer pressure not to tell, is gone.

"If someone does say something (to a teacher), they're considered strong and brave," said Grade 8 student Catrina Bras.

Grade 11 student Mandy Wong said "Within the walls of Grant Park, I haven't seen physical bullying," though she's seen verbal and online bullying. "We have some exceptional role models at Grant Park; there will always be someone who says, 'Why are you doing this?' "

Grade 9 student Eva Rodrigues said one girl stood up when members of a varsity team used homophobic language: "It causes a very hostile environment" if left unchallenged, she said.

"There's a very high chance of someone speaking up," Grade 9 student Jack Osiowy said.

Grade 8 student Ryan Abells said bullies, especially those hiding in online anonymity, would never stand up and attack someone in front of the entire school.

Milmine can be reached at www.bullyingendshere.ca.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 14, 2014 B2

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