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Mar. 30, 2020 | Monday
Editorials and Opinions
Disero condemns bullying
Lord Mayor Betty Disero. (Richard Harley/Niagara Now)


Lord Mayor Betty Disero issued the following letter this week:

I want to talk to you today about something that came up during International Women’s Day.

In recent weeks, this topic has been raised over and over again from the public, my colleagues, locally, and at the Region. It is the issue of bullying and a common strategy used by bullies. This is not just an issue for women, it affects all of us in the community, everyone of all ages, no matter where or how we live. Even if we are not the ones being bullied, those who witness this kind of behaviour can be affected by seeing it or even worse, pulled in to siding with a bully. If that is the case, friends or communities can become extremely divided by the actions of a single person. That isn’t fair or right.

In my experience of the world, bullies big and small use a combination of three particular tactics to manipulate their victims and those around them:

They create chaos and spread misinformation – with multiple platforms available to the public today on the internet and in print media, it is very easy to say something that is exaggerated, not quite accurate or to create a scenario that is fake. A bully will take a very small bit of information and embellish it to suit their own interests. A bully will flagrantly disregard facts, and encourage people to think with their emotions instead of with logic and reason. They happily promote chaos and division, pretending to be experts or the voice of authority.

Bullies use fear as a tool. They feed off of people’s insecurities and manipulate others to believe they are good. Bullies may use a variety of threats, particularly when they themselves are feeling threatened: they will openly suggest that anyone who stands up to them will have to pay dearly for opposing their wishes. They may suggest that resisting their intentions will cost money, or be unsafe, or damage your reputation, or have other long-term negative consequences. Even just implying that resisting a bully will change your life somehow in a negative way may be enough to shut down opposition to their actions and desires. This is a terrible way to treat people, whether it happens in a schoolyard or in our domestic spaces or across a local community.

Finally, bullies encourage their victims to distrust the institutions and authorities that are intended to protect regular people. Bullies don’t care about the common good, or a greater good, they care about one thing: themselves and their own personal interests. Bullies are only listening to you when it suits them. When a counteractive house of power exists to their own, whether it is the police or the government or a teacher in a schoolyard, bullies will discourage their victims from connecting with these authorities and undermine the quality of protection that can be provided to people if they do speak up and push back.

The good news is, we don’t have to put up with bullies. And a first step to combatting them is to recognize their tactics, and call out the strategies they use to intimidate, undermine and fear monger.

When I see bullying happening in Niagara-on-the-Lake, I know for a fact that this is not the way we want to live in our beautiful community. This is not how we should treat each other. Bullies do not add to the outstanding quality of life we live here for.

Throughout all of our lives, wherever we come from, we have had to deal with bullies. And thankfully, when we or someone acting on our behalf has the guts to stand up to them, the bullies get put in their place. Every single day, in communities big and small, private and public, people are pushing back against bullies and saying “I see what you are doing, and it’s going to stop.”

As for this Council, if anyone in our community has concerns with what is being said or written about our actions, or anything you see take place in this Council Chamber, or anything you hear through the grapevine, all you have to do is ask. With respect to this Council, we will give you honest answers, even if they are difficult questions. Over time, this Council may make mistakes that need to be corrected, may not be able to please everyone all the time, and will need to make some changes to keep up with a new generation of challenges as our community grows and develops. All I can offer is that there are nine dedicated, devoted people who you have chosen through a democratic process to represent you, and we are all here and ready to work with you and for you, with the support 90+ members of Town staff.

We will counteract chaos with calm. We will neutralize misinformation with facts. We will soothe fears by listening, and we will build trust by acting on what we hear.

International Women’s Day provided a great reminder that we all have the ability to ignore the bullies and take away their power. The exceptional quality of life and unique attributes of Niagara-on-the-Lake are worth fighting for.