12/11/2012 01:08 EST | Updated 02/10/2013 05:12 EST

Alberta town implements anti-bullying bylaw after request from RCMP

HANNA, Alta. - The mayor of a small Alberta town says a decision to implement an anti-bullying bylaw was not a "knee-jerk reaction" to the tragic suicide of teenager Amanda Todd.

The 15-year-old girl from Port Coquitlam, B.C., killed herself at home in October, about a month after posting a video on YouTube saying how she sank into depression while enduring years of online bullying, blackmail and physical assaults at school.

Her death captured the attention of people around the world, focusing a spotlight on the plight of those who continue to face down the torments of bullies.

"I've never watched the video, and certainly the RCMP approached us long before she did what she did," said Hanna Mayor Mark Nikota.

"It's definitely not the path we've taken ... We didn't just get to our November council meeting where we passed this and all of a sudden start a discussion around the table and say, `We need this. Let's put it into place.'"

Nikota said the town, about 210 kilometres northeast of Calgary, was approached by a Mountie in September for help controlling bullying among young people.

"They were looking for help with situations that were arising around town that they couldn't deal with. With Criminal Code offences, usually there has to be violence or some other physical abuse going on," Nikota said.

"Short of that, they really had no mechanism with those kind of situations, so they approached us to see if we could research and bring in a bylaw."

It won't be clear if the bylaw works until someone is charged under it, the mayor added. It calls for an initial fine of $250, which could jump to $1,000 for subsequent offences.

There's also a bystander clause, where fines of $100 can be assessed if an individual knows something is going on and doesn't inform authorities.

Nikota said this isn't an infringement of freedom of speech. Instead, he said, the bylaw is more of a weapon of last resort.

"It's not a name-calling bylaw. If they're walking down the street and somebody calls somebody a name, they're not going to whip out the old ticket book," he said.

"This is for ongoing situations where it's escalating and they want to get hold of the situation before it gets to the violence aspects."

Nikota said he doubts Hanna, with a population of 2,700, is the first community in Canada to implement such a measure, but the town wanted to do what it could to make it safer.

— By Bill Graveland in Calgary