03/17/2016 21:30 EDT | Updated 03/18/2017 01:12 EDT

Saskatoon city council to consider anti-bullying bylaw

It could soon be an offence in Saskatoon to bully anyone at school, or in any public place such as a shopping mall or playground, if city council passes a proposed bylaw.

It's up for discussion at Monday's meeting.

"I love it," said Brian Trainor, a retired police sergeant who now delivers anti-bullying presentations in schools around the province. "It's so needed because it's a tool that police will have on their tool belt."

The bylaw defines bullying as any unprovoked, repeated and inappropriate comment or action intended to cause harm, fear or distress. It specifically includes such things as name-calling, pushing, and gossiping or rumour-mongering.

No one under the age of 12 can be convicted.

For anyone above that age, a first offence can result in a fine of up to $300. For second or subsequent convictions the fine is between $300 and $2,500.    

However, a charge can also be dealt with through mediation instead of court if certain conditions are met, including the consent of the complainant.

"Short of criminal charges, what else can the police do?" Trainor said. "I don't want to criminalize our kids."

He called the bylaw "a real nice middle ground that allows the police to do something that is more restorative than punishing."

He went on to say that often, kids don't understand the impact of what they're doing, "and once they're made aware of it and they can actually learn to feel some empathy for their targets they change. They become better people."

And, he said schools aren't always effective in dealing with bullying.

School boards say they have the tools they need

At Monday's meeting, city council will be presented with two versions of the bylaw: one that will apply to bullying in schools and on school sites, and another that won't. City administration is recommending the first version.

If Saskatoon's bylaw passes, it could come into effect by September — in time for the next school year.

How Regina's bylaw compares

Regina has had an anti-bullying and public fighting bylaw since 2006. It does not specifically include gossiping or rumour-mongering in its definition of bullying. It does include schools and school grounds in its definition of a public place.

A charge can result in a $100 ticket or a court fine of up to $2,000. There is no provision to divert cases to mediation, but it does allow for participation in an anti-bullying course as an alternative to a fine.

The Regina Police Service says so far 44 people have been charged under the bylaw. In 2015, a total of eight people were charged: six 16-year-olds, one 18-year-old and one 55-year-old.

Figures on how many charges have resulted in convictions were not immediately available.