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Vigils honour Amanda, condemn harassment

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SURREY, B.C. -- They lit candles, shared their thoughts and collectively took a quiet stand against the kind of torment that caused a British Columbia teen to take her own life.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/10/2012 (3700 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

SURREY, B.C. — They lit candles, shared their thoughts and collectively took a quiet stand against the kind of torment that caused a British Columbia teen to take her own life.

Hundreds of people in a number of cities around the world paused to remember bullying victim Amanda Todd on Friday. The 15-year-old Port Coquitlam girl committed suicide Oct. 10 following years of Internet sexual exploitation and bullying by her peers.

A Facebook page had been set up listing memorials for Todd from communities in the Vancouver area to cities in Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Vigils were to be held in at least five American states, as well as Copenhagen and cities in India.

JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Casandra Habinski, left, and Brandi Rose from Argyle Alternative High School make heart shape with their hands at the Manitoba Legislature Friday to remember bullying victim Amanda Todd, who took her own life recently in B.C.- Vigils were held for cities around the world to remember Todd, who left a chilling video on YouTube.

In Winnipeg, people lit candles and released pink balloons.

Cherish Ohryn, 16, said being bullied robbed of her self-esteem, so she tried bullying others to get it back.

“Instead, it made me feel like a victim again,” she told a crowd of about 50 people at an anti-bullying rally at the legislature.

Ohryn said she mustered up the courage to address Friday night’s crowd because, “I’m tired of seeing people get bullied and want people to know how much it hurts.”

One of the goals of the rally is to try to relieve the isolation some bullying victims feel. Harrison Oakes, a psychology student at the University of Winnipeg who recently published a teacher’s guide to bullying available through the public education system, called the rally “a sign of solidarity.”

“We hope this event and others will bring some comfort to Todd’s family and signal to students everywhere that they’re not alone,” Oakes said.

One of the larger gatherings was planned for Holland Park in Surrey, B.C., where a crowd of all ages, many dressed in pink, gathered with candles in front of a white tent and stage.

Supt. Bill Fordy of the Surrey RCMP read a statement from Todd’s father that thanked people for sharing their thoughts, prayers and love.

“We would like to see changes made around the world to put an end to bullying once and for all,” the statement said. “We want Amanda’s story to be heard loud and clear and most importantly to keep her voice alive forever.”

“It means a lot to see the world lighting up this evening in Amanda’s honour. Stay strong.”

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward People gather during a memorial for Amanda Todd in Surrey, B.C. on Friday night.

In Victoria, about 100 people gathered at Beacon Hill Park, many placing lit candles under a large tree where a makeshift memorial that included pictures of Todd had been set up.

Victoria vigil organizer Vanessa Downie said this was the first event she’d ever organized, but felt she had to honour Todd in some way while standing up against bullying.

“When I heard what happened to Amanda, it just broke my heart,” said Downie. “Then I got very angry that something so terrible could happen to someone so innocent and so young.”

Earlier in the day, the Toronto District School Board had asked its 250,000 students and 40,000 staff members to pause for one minute of silence.

That observance came at the same time as news was breaking of charges against eight girls in a bullying case at a high school in London, Ont. The students were suspended Friday.

An investigation found a student at the school had been the target of physical, emotional and online bullying, police said.

The girls are each charged with criminal harassment.

A month before Todd’s death, she posted a video to YouTube in which she flips through dozens of cards, writing her story in short sentences.

She said she was in Grade 7 when she was lured by an unidentified male to expose her breasts during a chat. A year later, she said, she received a message from a man on Facebook threatening if she didn’t give him a show, he would send the webcam picture to her friends and family.

CP Amanda Todd, 15

“He knew my address, school, relatives, friends, family names,” she wrote.

Over Christmas break there was a knock on her door at 4 a.m.

“It was the police… my photo was sent to everyone,” she wrote. “I then got really sick and then got anxiety, major depression and panic disorder.”

In the video that has now been viewed more than 8.5 million times, she outlines more recent bullying over her relationship with a boy that escalated to an assault that left her lying bloodied in a ditch. She said she tried to kill herself twice. Her last words on the video were: “I have nobody. I need someone.”

 

— The Canadian Press, with staff files

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