The death of an 11-year-old boy with muscular dystrophy months after his assault by a bully has shined a spotlight on bullying in Canada's schools.
Muscular dystrophy left Mitchell Wilson struggling to do simple things like walking around the block or climbing stairs. He also had to use a walker at school. Doctors had urged him to exercise regularly to stave off the disease's effects, something that was growing increasingly difficult for the boy.
Wilson was mugged last November by a 12-year-old boy from his school. The assailant was after the iPhone Wilson borrowed from his dad. The bully was arrested and removed from the Pickering, Ont. school they both attended.
"He was never the same," said Craig Wilson to the Toronto Star, the boy's father and the one who found the boy's body in his room with a plastic bag tied around his head earlier this month.
Things didn't get any better for the young Mitchell as the court date loomed. And the bullying didn't stop.
"Subsequent to the beating that he took, he just lost that spark you see in a kid's eye. He had huge anxiety attacks about going outside and going for his walks and going to school by himself," Craig Wilson told CTV's Canada AM.
“At the cottage in July, he said, ‘If I have to go back to that school, I’ll kill myself,’” the boy's grandmother, Pam Wilson, told the National Post.
"He was very afraid, very fearful that he was going to run into this kid again," Mitchell's father told the CBC.
Wilson's death has raised fears that justice will not be served. The Crown initially feared that their case would have to be dropped because Wilson was unable to testify against his accused. But now the Crown has sought to delay a case while they prepare a written affidavit of a statement the boy made before his death. The case is now set for Nov. 21.
The alleged assailant cannot be identified due to his age but the Wilson family hopes that the alleged bully can atone for his crimes.
“He’s a lost kid. He hasn’t been loved, hasn’t been cared for. We don’t want to be a lynch squad. We want him to do community work with disabled people. All we are trying to do is help this kid understand that his life is going to be zip if he keeps on the road he is on,” Mitchell's grandmother told the National Post.
Wilson's father hopes that his son's death can save some lives in the long run. "I can’t do anything for my child anymore,” he said to the Toronto Sun. “So let’s hopefully save some other people’s children so they don’t have to go through this mess.”
Are you in crisis? Need help? Find links and numbers to 24-hour suicide crisis lines in your province here.
In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or visit stopbullying.gov.
Clarification: Additional details about how Craig Wilson, Mitchell Wilson's father, found his body was added to the story