Lucien Bouchard has opened up about how he was bullied as a kid, a public revelation he hopes will help spare others from similar torment.
The former Quebec premier shared his story in an online video released Wednesday as part of a campaign that coincides with Bullying Awareness Week.
"I'm not only speaking theoretically, I also lived it during my childhood," Bouchard says in French during the two-minute clip.
"I know what it's like to be bullied by someone much older and much stronger."
Bouchard, who speaks directly to the camera as he stands in front of a white backdrop, continues by saying that bullying violates personal freedom, takes away the victim's dignity and can lead to a spiral of violence.
He says aggressors try to deal with their own personal problems by targeting others with actions that prove to be self-degrading.
"Bullying is a social problem," says Bouchard, once a central figure in Quebec's independence movement and a key founder of the Bloc Quebecois.
"We must convince one and all that it's an unacceptable way to act in society."
Bouchard finishes his statement by holding his right palm in front of the camera and saying: "I say 'no' to bullying."
His disclosure comes as authorities across the country search for solutions to a problem that has attracted much attention in recent years, particularly after the high-profile deaths of several Canadian teens who suffered from relentless bullying.
Among them was British Columbia's Amanda Todd, 15, who took her own life last year after allegedly being subjected to online sexual exploitation and harassment. Todd's story attracted international attention after she posted a video detailing her anguish over the sustained bullying.
Justice Minister Peter MacKay said Wednesday that Canadians have been touched by such deaths as he introduced federal cyberbullying legislation in Ottawa. If passed, it would be illegal to distribute "intimate images" of individuals without consent and make it easier to remove these pictures from the Internet.
Bouchard's video, meanwhile, was part of an awareness campaign launched by Fondation Jasmin Roy, a Quebec organization dedicated to the fight against bullying.
The group also released anti-bullying messages Wednesday from other notable Quebecers, including Olympic champion Alexandre Bilodeau and Montreal actor Jay Baruchel.
"It was a surprise for me to see that (Bouchard) was bullied... It was a surprise like it's a surprise for all Quebecers today," Jasmin Roy, the group's president and founder, said in an interview.
"What we now understand is that any person, from any social class, can be a bullying victim."
Bouchard, Roy added, decided to share his own experiences growing up in Quebec's Saguenay region after being approached by Sophie Desmarais, the foundation's honorary spokeswoman. She is the daughter of the late business tycoon Paul Desmarais, who was a friend of Bouchard's.
Roy also pointed to Bouchard's remarks in a newspaper interview published Wednesday, a report that quotes the ex-premier as saying he suffered broken teeth, black eyes and bruises after run-ins with his tormentors.
Bouchard told the newspaper he first became a target at school when he was nine years old, and that he and his brothers were also bullied a few years later for being top students.
"He is sending a message to the population... that even if you're bullied in life you can go far, you can be the premier," Roy said.
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