04/10/2013 11:36 EDT | Updated 06/10/2013 05:12 EDT

Small Saskatchewan town enacts anti-bullying bylaw, hopes other follow lead

ESTON, Sask. - Teasing and name-calling could result in a fine or even jail time in Eston, Sask., after the small town announced its new anti-bullying bylaw.

Sporting pink shirts to mark the anti-bullying International Day of Pink, students, politicians and police officers gathered at Eston Composite school on Wednesday to launch the bylaw.

As the first in Saskatchewan to introduce an anti-bullying bylaw, the small town hopes to set an example for the rest of the province.

The bylaw defines bullying as “repeated or habitual harassment” ranging from name calling to theft to physical and emotional abuse.

Police can investigate a reported incident and choose to issue a warning or fine.

First time offenders face a $250 fine while repeat offenders may owe as much as $1,000 for each offence. Failure to pay the fine could result in up to six months in jail.

Bullies are not the only ones who could be punished. Anyone who cheers on or encourages bullying could also be slapped with penalties.

“Obviously not every incident is going to be proven or investigated successfully but at least it’s ground to start somewhere,” said Eston economic development officer Johnathan Meyer.

The idea was sparked by students at Eston Composite and, with the help of local RCMP, caught the attention of council.

It has, however, has not been immune to criticism. Canadian religious groups say the laws undermine the beliefs taught in religious schools and force them to allow gay-straight alliance clubs.

Others question whether young children will understand the consequences of their actions.