MONTREAL - A flip comment made on Facebook several weeks ago cut chillingly to the heart of a debate on bullying raging Wednesday in Canada.
"Suspended 5 days! ahahaha! Not bad," the teenaged alleged aggressor of Quebec schoolgirl Marjorie Raymond wrote on Facebook on Nov. 1, apparently unperturbed by the penalty handed down by her school.
Within a month, Raymond had killed herself.
Cases like this one were the inspiration behind legislation tabled Wednesday in next-door Ontario. Following other high-profile teen suicides in that province, the McGuinty government introduced a bill that would allow schools to permanently expel students for bullying.
The Facebook post was one of several referring to the teen's run-ins with Raymond, who became severely depressed over the torment she faced at school.
When Raymond committed suicide, someone posted on the other girl's page: "You must be proud of yourself with a death on your conscience. . . .Pathetic."
Raymond took her own life on Nov. 28 in the tiny town of Ste-Anne-des-Monts, Que., telling her mother in a suicide note that she couldn't endure the physical and psychological abuse any longer.
The bullying had apparently been going on for three years and Raymond said in a suicide note made public by her mother that, "it's the fault of jealous people who want to wreck our happiness."
Chantal Larose, the teen's mother, urged teens and school officials to take bullying seriously and act upon it, saying she doesn't feel her daughter's plight was taken seriously enough.
She also said the aggressors should be aware their actions have consequences.
"I don't want anything bad to happen to her," Larose said of her daughter's alleged bully.
"(But) I hope she understands that what she did wasn't nothing. I want her to understand that the things she said to my daughter brought her to this point."
Raymond's death sparked outrage in Quebec on Wednesday, grabbing headlines and sparking debate in the provincial legislature.
Premier Jean Charest said he was saddened to hear of Raymond's suicide and expressed his sympathies to her family.
"When these sad events happen, of course, we all ask ourselves if there are things we can do differently to avoid them," Charest told reporters.
"We've already initiated a number of things to deal with this issue of intimidation in the schoolyard and we've done a great deal of work. These issues are often difficult issues and we'll look at whatever we can do that can be more effective."
Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois said news of Raymond's death brought tears to her eyes when she heard about it and she insisted bullying policies have to be reviewed.
"We, collectively, have a responsibility," she said. "Our institutions have a responsibility."
There was even a lengthy debate on the alleged bully's Facebook page, although she didn't weigh in. Some teens blasted the girl, asking, "Did you enjoy beating her?"
The debate in Quebec came on the same day that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty tabled his new anti-bullying bill in his provincial legislature. The legislation would allow schools to permanently expel students for bullying, instead of being limited to suspensions, McGuinty said after visiting students at L'Amoreaux Collegiate Institute in north Toronto.
The suicide of 15-year-old Jamie Hubley, a boy who was targeted as an openly gay student at his Ottawa school, touched a nerve, with teens from around North America flooding the Internet with tribute songs, videos and messages in response.
Even pop megastar Lady Gaga joined in the efforts at a Toronto-area school, sending a video message of support to an anti-bullying rally. She said the effort was important and pointed out that one of her teen fans had committed suicide after being intimidated.
By Nelson Wyatt, The Canadian Press