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Bullying concerns everyone and anyone can be a witness to or a victim of bullying at some point. Bullying can take many different forms and occur in many different settings, for example at school, work or anywhere else. No matter how or where it happens, bullying has serious consequences for the victims.

Bullying may be a part of other problems, such as discrimination , homophobia, mistreatment, family or sexual violence. In Québec, bullying is addressed in various laws, including the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, the Education Act and the Criminal Code.

There are many resources to support you and help you to denounce or end bullying. For additional information, see the support and tool bank to prevent and counter bullying (in French only).

Definition of bullying

Bullying is a form of violence and should not be tolerated. It is defined as an action, intervention or comment that threatens, hurts, humiliates or deprives another person of their dignity. Individuals or groups that engage in bullying behaviour exert power over their victims, and the victims find it difficult to defend themselves.

Bullying generally refers to behaviour, words or actions that:

  • May be intentional or unintentional
  • Are repeated
  • May be direct or indirect
  • Are intended to harm or hurt
  • Occur where an imbalance of power exists between two or more people, for example, within relationships of power or control

Examples of indirect bullying:   

  • Excluding someone from a group
  • Isolating someone or making them less popular by spreading rumours about them
  • Revealing secrets, speaking behind someone’s back or writing unpleasant things about them
  • This type of behaviour can be difficult to identify but is just as harmful as direct bullying 
Different types of bullying

Types of bullying

Examples of behaviour

Physical: Actions that are physically harmful.

  • Tripping
  • Shoving intentionally
  • Hitting
  • Raising fists
  • Forcing someone to do something against their will (e.g. taxing)

Verbal: Words that are psychologically harmful.

  • Insulting
  • Threatening
  • Ridiculing or making fun of someone
  • Making remarks against people who are different, for example because of:
    • Their gender
    • Their sexual orientation
    • Their gender identity or expression
    • Their ethnicity

Social: Actions that have a negative impact on a person’s social relationships or standing in a group.

  • Spreading lies or rumours
  • Denigrating, humiliating
  • Isolating or excluding from a group

Material: Actions that damage a person’s living environment or deprive them of their belongings or property.

  • Destroying, vandalizing or stealing a person’s belongings or property

Bullying can also happen online, on social media or in text messages, emails and blogs. This type of bullying is called cyberbullying.

I have been targeted by acts of bullying

It is important to take action to stop bullying and make sure it does not recur. Below are some solutions to help you do this.

Your reaction can help stop bullying.

It may be helpful to stay calm and control your physical and emotional reactions. You can also speak directly to the bully, in a firm but non-aggressive way, and ask them to stop what they are doing. You can also say that you find it inacceptable. If possible, do not give in to blackmail.

Remember that it is not your fault. If possible, take part in activities or sports that interest you, to help develop your self-confidence and surround yourself with people you trust.

Ignore the inappropriate behaviour if you can.

By ignoring bullying, you will show the bully that their words or actions have no power over you. If possible, avoid the person who is trying to bully you. If you cannot avoid them altogether, make sure you are never alone with them.

Ask for help.

Confide in your friends or someone you trust. You can ask for professional help at any time.

Report the bullying.

Report bullying through the mechanisms available to you. You can ask someone you trust to help you with this. Report criminal offences to the police. Some types of actions are regulated by law and may be criminal.

I have witnessed bullying

Witnesses have more power than they may think when it comes to violence or bullying.

Read the content of the note 1 We know that 88% of situations involving violence occur in the presence of witnesses, and that aggressions cease within ten seconds in two-thirds of these situations when someone else intervenes directly. 

Inaction can sometimes encourage aggressors to continue what they are doing because they think the witnesses approve. It is therefore important to do something. When witnesses laugh, support or perpetuate bullying behaviours (for example by spreading a rumour), they become bullies themselves and make the consequences worse for the victims. 

As a witness, you may also need help.

Examples of things you can do as a witness: 

  • Do not laugh at bullying behaviour.
  • Stand or sit closer to the victim to indicate your support.
  • If you feel able to do so, tell the bully that you do not like what they are doing.
  • Ask other witnesses to take action with you.
  • Offer to help the victim after the incident.
  • Notify someone in authority. 

In every case, if you are afraid for your own safety, consider going for help instead, or report the incident to someone in authority.

I have bullied someone

It can sometimes be difficult to accept that you have bullied someone. Below is some advice to help improve your relationships with other people:

  • Think about what you want to say instead of blurting it out.
  • Be aware that others will inevitably hear about what you have done.
  • Think about the impact and consequences that your bullying may have for other people.
  • Get professional help to manage your emotions.

Whatever your reasons may be, you are responsible for your own behaviour. Many actions of this type are regulated by law and some may constitute criminal behaviour under the Criminal Code of Canada This hyperlink will open in a new window.  (e.g. death threats, physical injury and acts of violence). 

I am a parent

Children who bully, are bullied or witness bullying often do not dare to share their experiences with their parents. As a parent, it is all the more important to listen to your child and keep an eye open for sudden changes of behaviour.

Consequences of bullying

Being bullied has a wide variety of harmful consequences, both for the person who is bullied and their family and friends and for bystanders. These consequences can affect physical health, mental health and social relationships.

Here are some examples of the consequences of bullying:

  • Feelings of distress
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • High stress level
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Feelings of humiliation
  • Isolation
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Various physical ailments, such as stomach aches or headaches
  • Deterioration of overall health
  • Loss of confidence and self-esteem
  • Learning difficulties
  • Problems concentrating
  • Missing school or work
  • Dropping out of school
  • Social exclusion
  • Acts of delinquency

The consequences of bullying and cyberbullying can vary depending on the person and their particular characteristics.

Risk factors

It is hard to accurately define the characteristics of people who get bullied.

However, some personal characteristics may increase the risk of being bullied. For example:

  • Having low self-esteem
  • Being introverted (withdrawn)
  • Having difficulty getting along with others

These characteristics may also increase the risk that a person use bullying as a way of taking their place in society. Indeed, in some cases, people who are bullied or have been bullied in the past start bullying other people themselves.

Bullying is often aimed at groups of people who are seen as different because of prejudices that exist about them. These prejudices may, for instance, have to do with:

  • Belonging to an ethnic or a cultural group
  • Sexual orientation or identity
  • Appearance or a physical feature, such as weight or a disability
  • Presence of personal problems such as substance dependence, homelessness or delinquency

Protection and prevention

Some personal characteristics help to reduce the risk of someone experiencing bullying or intimidating others. For example:

  • Being self-confident
  • Being able to stand up for yourself and express themselves
  • Having social skills such as:
    • Being able to initiate contact easily with others
    • Being able to make friends
    • Being respectful and kind towards others, etc.

Other personal characteristics can prevent bullying and have a positive impact on social relationships. For example:

  • Encouraging equality in relationships between people
  • Encouraging behaviour towards other people that is intended to help them and foster their well-being and quality of life

Last update: March 3, 2023


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