Bullying: How to Recognize It and Act

Bullying includes words, actions, images and actions that hurt, humiliate or socially exclude someone or that lower someone's self-esteem. Bullying usually happens when the bully and the victim are unevenly matched.

Therefore, bullying is not the same thing as joking among friends or disagreeing with someone.

Bullying can occur even the bully does not mean to hurt anyone.

"You're stupid, ugly and fat."

"You really think the boss trusts you? You're good for nothing."

"Let's go scare the life out of that short kid over there."

"If you don't show me your breasts, I'll post an embarrassing picture of you on the Internet."

"Your family is a bunch of terrorists!"

"Sign this cheque if you want me to keep on visiting."

What You Can Do About Bullying

You should act quickly to stop bullying and prevent it from happening again.

Whether you are a victim, parent, employer, family member or witness, there are ways to protect victims of bullying and to stop the bullying. What to do depends on the situation.

Important! If you are a parent, tutor of a child, or tutor or curator of an adult being bullied, you must take action on behalf of the victim to end the bullying and make sure the victim's rights are respected.

At School

All elementary and high schools in Quebec must have procedures about handling complaints about bullying and intervening. So, if a student, teacher or staff member is being bullied, anybody (even a parent) can report this to the school's administration.

Any person age 12 or older can be accused of a crime and brought to court.

To learn about your rights and what you can do, see the article Bullying at School in the youth section of our website.

At Work

Bullying at work can be considered to be psychological harassment.

Psychological harassment can happen between employees, between an employee and an employer, or between an employee and someone else, such as a customer or supplier. 

The employer has a responsibility to take action to end this type of behaviour and prevent it from happening again.

If you are a victim, the parent of a victim or a witness, you can report this situation to the resource people at your company or directly to your employer.

To learn more about your rights and remedies, see our article Psychological Harassment in the Workplace.

On the Internet or Other Forms of Technology

Cyberbullying occurs when technology is used to bully someone, for example, through the Internet, a social network, a website, email, text messaging or instant messaging.

To learn more about your rights and remedies when it comes to cyberbullying, see our article Cyberbullying.

In Other Situations

The law says that discrimination based on certain characteristics is not allowed. These characteristics include things like race, ethnic origin, age, religion and language.

When bullying is based on one of these characteristics and looks like discrimination or harassment, the victim can report the situation to the Commission des droits de la personne et de la jeunesse (human rights and youth rights commission). Victims of bullying can ask someone they know or a human rights organization for help in making a complaint.

  • Discrimination involves treating a person differently based on one of the characteristics described above. To learn more about discrimination and your rights and remedies, see our article Remedies Against Discrimination (article in French only at the moment).
     
  • Harassment is behaviour that affects the dignity or physical or psychological health of a person through offensive, insulting, hostile or unwanted words or actions. A single serious act can be considered harassment if it has a continuous harmful effect on the victim.
Important! If you think someone is taking advantage of the vulnerability or dependence of an elderly or disabled person to gain something, you can report this behaviour to the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (human rights and youth rights commission). See our article Seniors and Protection From Exploitation and Abuse

When the bullying harms the victim, the victim can also take legal action in court to put a stop to it and ask for compensation (money) for the harm done. See our article Civil Responsibility.

When Bullying Is a Crime

Bullying is considered a crime in certain cases. Here are examples of types of bullying that are crimes:

Anyone can report these crimes to the police by calling 911. For regions not served by 911, you can call 310-4141 (4141 from a cell phone) to reach the Sûreté du Québec provincial police.

Based on the information provided, the police will decide whether they should investigate and whether the case should be sent to government lawyers who can decide whether to bring a criminal case against the bully.

Important !
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.