Base takes a stand against bullying

CPO1 Paul Helston, Capt(N) Mike Knippel and RAdm Bill Truelove stand against bullying

Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) Fleet Chief Petty Officer, CPO1 Paul Helston; MARPAC Chief of Staff, Capt(N) Mike Knippel; and Commander MARPAC, RAdm Bill Truelove sport pink t-shirts in support of International STAND UP to Bullying Day on Friday, Feb. 22.

CFB Esquimalt will join thousands of schools, workplaces and organizations this year when it officially participates in International STAND UP to Bullying Day next month.

The driving force behind the event, MCpl Kyle Mitchell, hopes to see a sea of pink shirts on Friday, Feb. 22, which is “dress with a difference” day, as military members and civilians show support for the cause.

“I’d hope for everyone to be wearing pink shirts, but because this is the first time, I’m just happy the base has authorized it,” he says.
Inspired by his two children who are actively involved in anti-bullying programs in their school, MCpl Mitchell decided to take action to make people on base more aware of bullying, its effects and programs that address it.

“I know we in CFB Esquimalt have systems in place to assist our members and families, but I was surprised to find out that my own wife was unaware of them,” he says.

The Military Family Resource Centre, the padres, the divisional system, the Employee Assistance Program, the Canadian Forces Members Assistance Program and CF Mental Health Services all offer assistance to people experiencing bullying. Several of these programs are available to families as well as DND employees.

MCpl Mitchell knew the opportunity to take his own action against bullying had arrived during a luncheon with Commander Maritime Forces Pacific, RAdm Bill Truelove early last year.

“He challenged all of us present to take a look at ourselves, at the base, and see if there is anything that we are doing that we can do better, or anything that we are doing that others don’t know we’re doing here.”

When MCpl Mitchell proposed pink shirt day, the Admiral jumped on board.

“I think bullying touches everyone’s life to a degree,” says RAdm Truelove. “So I think anything we can do to stop bullying in any form is the right thing to do.”

“My message would be to everyone out there: Be aware of bullying. Do what you can to stop it so that we all live in an environment that’s void of this type of behaviour,” he adds.

The pink shirt campaign started five years ago when a Nova Scotia boy was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school. On hearing of the incident, senior students Travis Price and David Shepherd decided to do something about it.

They bought every pink tank top they could find at the local department store and used Facebook to encourage all the seniors in the school to wear pink the next day. So many students supported their action they had to go buy more shirts.

The story was picked up by major news outlets in Canada and the U.S. and the Premier of Nova Scotia declared a special day for schools to honour their stand against bullying.

Now, millions of people around the world don pink shirts and stand with them for International STAND UP to Bullying Day.

“The fact it was a Canadian movement really inspired me as a Canadian,” says event organizer Nora Johnson of the Employee Assistance Program. “This is really a powerful thing that these two boys did, and it was such a simple, non-aggressive way to say it is not okay for people to make other people feel bad and humiliated for being who they are.”

Johnson encourages units to challenge each other to “out pink” each other and have some fun with the event. She also asks units or individual participants to let her know via phone (250-363-7968) or email ( that they are taking part.
Official shirts can be bulk ordered from for $6 each until Jan. 30. After that, the price goes up to $9.80 each. Proceeds support Boys and Girls Clubs.

The shirts are also available from London Drugs or people can wear their own pink shirts.

Johnson hopes that, in addition to participating in the event, people will make themselves aware of what bullying looks like. It isn’t always as obvious as insulting someone to their face, she says.

Bullying can take the form of excluding people, rumours, sarcasm, or jokes that poke fun at things such as sexual orientation, religion, and gender.

“Sometimes they’re intended to be funny, but they may be right on the verge and make people feel uncomfortable,” she says.

In addition to International STAND UP to Bullying Day, Canada has its own Pink Shirt Day on Wednesday, Feb. 27 and civilians on base are encouraged to participate in that day too. Though military members can’t wear the pink shirts with their uniform, she suggests they wear it with their civvies on the way to work as a show of support.

-Carmel Ecker, Staff Writer

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  1. Nora Johnson says:

    I made a slight error with the donation comment. The CKNW Orphans’ Fund benefits from the revenue generated from pink T-shirts and button sales and donations. The CKNW Orphans’ Fund then grants all the net money raised to anti bullying programs around BC, including the Boys and Girls Clubs.

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