It was a speech Westsyde secondary students will not soon forget. In fact, it caused a few of them to rush out of the auditorium in tears and even left a lump in the throats of some staff members.
The speaker was Surrey RCMP Const. Tad Milmine and his topic was bullying.
"Bullying is not a virus, it's not a problem that's outside right now . . . the problem is you," Milmine told the student body on Tuesday.
"You are the bullies and you are the ones being bullied and feeling like you can't speak up because it's going to get worse."
Milmine's own experiences with bullying and the suffering of a boy named Jamie Hubley induced him to start the campaign he calls Bullying Ends Here.
He spent $15,000 of his own money to launch the program and his website, www.bullyingendshere.ca.
And during his hour-long talk, he vowed to answer everybody and anybody who reached out to him online.
"I will do whatever it takes to get you through your dark days," he said.
Milmine's passion is borne first and foremost from his own experience. As a single child of five in Cambridge, Ont., his mother left him with his "functioning alcoholic" father, who took up with a woman Milmine calls "the devil."
His stepmother immediately confined Milmine to the basement — four cement walls, a bare light bulb and a black-and-white TV — and placed him in a perpetual state of grounding, refusing to allow him to leave for any reason other than school. Dinner was a plate on the floor at the basement door, which he was given five minutes to eat.
She also tormented him with verbal abuse causing psychological trauma that led to his uncontrollable crying jags.
Bullies soon noticed that a few taunts would bring on "the show" of sobbing, and they took advantage of his weakened state every day.
He became suicidal but made in through by focusing on one positive thing a day.
After his entire childhood went by in similar fashion, Milmine finally escaped at age 17 and never saw his father or "the devil" again.
It took until aged 32 for Milmine to finally pursue his dream, which he'd had since age five, of being a police officer.
Then he discovered "my hero," Jamie Hubley. The Ottawa native couldn't be at the talk, said Milmine, so he got permission to tell his story.
Jamie is described as very white, skinny, redheaded, perpetually positive, always happy and giving.
"If he was here and saw you shaking he'd give you the shirt off his back," said Milmine.
The bubble of popularity Jamie enjoyed burst at age 11 when he decided to take up figure skating. He was called every abusive name there is but was determined to hang on until Grade 7 when he'd switch schools.
But the change in school meant riding a bus, and that only made things worse. His first day on the bus, Jamie was pinned down, kicked and punched repeatedly.
He was held down as each child on the bus spit in his mouth, which was forced open. Then someone shoved batteries down his throat.
The attack landed him in hospital but throughout every ordeal he refused to allow his family to interfere believing it would make things worse.
It was in Grade 9 that Jamie came out to his parents as gay. Their loving and supportive reaction was a relief, and the 15-year-old boy posted his "outing" on his Facebook page.
Bad idea, says Milmine.
"Jamie had no idea that when you push 'send' on anything, text, Facebook, it's not yours anymore."
The blowback caused Jamie to switch schools but the situation followed him, which is another symptom of social media — it can't be escaped, said Milmine.
In Grade 10, Jamie was completely ostracized but ever the optimist, he had an idea. With permission from the principal, he took over a classroom for a day and hung posters around the school inviting students to come and meet him in a safe space.
He poured his heart out on the poster, said Milmine.
No one came.
Jamie went home crying and told his parents he wanted to blog about his feelings before dinner while they were fresh, said Milmine.
"He's typing feverishly, knowing he has to get downstairs right away," said Milmine. "He pushes send. And just before he goes downstairs because he knows that dinner's ready, he kills himself."
It was October 2011 and Jamie Hubley, an Ottawa city councillor's son, was 15 years old and dead.
The revelation caused several of the assembled Westsyde students to cry; some sobbed and a few left the gym.
When he read the story in a newspaper, Milmine said he froze and relived his old traumas. He decided to launch the Bullying Ends Here website and take it one step further by picking up where Jamie left off.
"I am gay," said Milmine.
He then advised anyone who had just changed their opinion about him to a negative, "You have some real serious work to do."
"I've been gay this whole time," he said. "But if you look down on me, that's OK. I'll still be the first person at your door when you call 911."
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STUDENTS EMBRACE PINK SHIRT DAY
Schools throughout the district are eager about Pink Shirt Day today, and even among teens it's widely embraced as a positive thing.
Westsyde secondary students started anti-bullying initiatives a little early — on Tuesday assembling for a one-hour presentation by Bullying Ends Here founder RCMP Const. Tad Milmine (see related story).
Students said they felt the day was necessary even though varying degrees of bullying was reported depending on the individual.
"I think it's very useful," said student Taylor Cross, about Pink Shirt Day. "But I think our school is actually pretty good for sticking together when it comes to stuff like that."
Alicia Dossantos also believes the day is a good idea, but doesn't recognize problems in her school.
"Sometimes people make fun of people. It's not like a big issue."
A few boys at the school had a keener awareness of problems and said the anti-bullying awareness generated through Amanda Todd's tragic suicide after years of bullying made an impact.
"I have a lot more friends that are a lot nicer to the younger people," said Dalton Johnston.
Dalton and his friends Liam Haberstock and Parker Matheson said they'd be wearing pink today, and they don't expect to be teased about it.
The topic of cyberbullying hit home for Liam whose cousin was recently a victim. A hacker took over her Facebook account and posted bullying messages posing as her, he said.
She changed her password and is now more protective over her online identity, he said.
Another troubling situation happening to Westsyde secondary students, said Parker, is the abusive tone being used on Ask.com.
The online forum gives people the opportunity to request answers from readers. But it seems others take it as an opportunity for attack.
"People telling others anonymously to kill themselves," he said.
"I don't know if they're just trying to be funny but I know that it's hurt a lot of people that I know," added Dalton.
The Daily News was unable to determine by press time whether an investigation into the allegations was underway.
Taylor said she's also seeing a positive trend online.
"I know I see people standing up and trying to break it up, which is nice."