NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. – Kim Loik says she told her 15-year-old son Todd to ignore the bullies and the constant barrage of insults they were sending to him on Facebook and through texts on his cellphone.
On the night of Sept. 8, he received another taunt, she said.
“I told him to go to bed and not worry about it,” his mom recalled Wednesday, though sniffles and sobs.
The next morning, she found her son dead in their home in North Battleford, northwest of Saskatoon. He had killed himself.
RCMP are looking into whether bullying played a role in the death. Sgt. Neil Tremblay said the investigation is in the early stages and officers are trying to get the required legal authorization for access to the boy’s online and phone messages.
Loik said she has spoken with the mother of 15-year-old Amanda Todd, who committed suicide in British Columbia last year. The girl had posted a heart-wrenching video online about the relentless bullying she experienced, and her subsequent death sparked a nationwide anti-bullying effort.
Loik said Carol Todd linked her with a private group that was able to dig into her son’s cyber and phone files. “They have pages and pages of taunts and abuse.”
She said her son wouldn’t let her read his Facebook page and he only shared a few of the messages he received. Loik can’t bring herself to read the pages of insults but, from what she does know, they’re vile.
“They were the nastiest things I’ve ever heard. I can’t even repeat — some of the things were just disgusting.”
Loik said she’s unsure why her son was the subject of such torment. He was just a normal kid who wanted to fit in.
He loved shop class and talked about becoming a welder. He was excited about taking his driver’s test on his 16th birthday, Sept. 20. And he had showed his mom pictures of his favourite car he hoped to drive someday, a classic Buick Skylark.
The single mom said the bullying started in the schoolyard five years ago, shortly after she moved with her only child from Edmonton. As her son got older, the insults came through his computer and phone.
“It was usually at night when it would happen. There was no peace.”
She said her son didn’t want her to get involved or call his school; it would only make things worse.
The harassment continued through the summer, said Loik. She sent her son with his cousins to go camping for a week in the Rocky Mountains near Jasper, Alta. “He had a little bit of peace and came home and he was smiling and happy.”
Loik said they had decided to move back to Edmonton so he could have a fresh start. They were packing and house-hunting and he was looking forward to the move later this fall, she said.
He was a week into Grade 10 at North Battleford Comprehensive High School when he died.
Shannon Lessard, a spokeswoman with the Living Sky School Division, said school officials are just now hearing about the bullying and it’s unfortunate Loik or his mom didn’t report it. Bullying can be reported anonymously, she said.
Loik said she wants justice. For her that includes criminal charges against the bullies who tormented her child, as well as a move by Ottawa to enact federal anti-bullying legislation.
Provinces have been tackling the issue in different ways.
In the past year, Nova Scotia has passed a Cyber-Safety Act allowing people to sue or seek a protection order from the courts if they or their children are being cyberbullied. Manitoba has also passed anti-bullying legislation and is considering more measures that could include protection orders, mandatory penalties and an anonymous tip line.
Loik said the laws need to be the same across the country.
“It can’t be province-to-province. It has to be one law preventing this from ever happening again to anybody. There’s so many kids out there in pain and suffering that deal with this daily and they shouldn’t.”
Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay sent a tweet Wednesday saying his thoughts are with the Loik family. “More proof that cyberbullying must be addressed. #BullyingHurts,” he wrote.
Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair also talked about the boy’s death on Twitter: “Let’s all work together to fight bullying and put an end to these tragedies.”
Earlier this week, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall sent Loik an email offering his condolences.
He told reporters Wednesday that the province is looking at anti-bullying initiatives, including an online way for kids to report bullying.
— By Chris Purdy in Edmonton.