Over the last two years, Oak Bay resident Ashley Migneault noticed a rise in neighbour-on-neighbour bullying in her grandmother’s neighbourhood.
“Although my grandma ignores it, it’s been a frustrating experience to watch, to say the least,” Migneault said.
But instead of venting her frustration on Facebook and social media circles like most do, Migneault decided to turn all that negativity into something positive: by creating Neighbours Against Bullying, a support and advocate group based in her grandma’s neighbourhood which is now online at neighboursagainstbullying.com.
Within days of launching the site, they received multiple stories from neighbours who live within her neighbourhood who’ve had similar experiences.
“These experiences range from having animal control called with zero cause, to having dogs screamed at from over the fence, to having video of their home and likeness posted online in local Facebook groups,” Migneault said. “The thread that connects all of these experiences is the helplessness that these people felt before realizing there were other people in the same neighbourhood going through similar experiences.”
Her end goal is to support people who feel as though they’ve been targeted by their neighbours, and to provide the support and resources they can use to navigate through the murky waters of these experiences.
Serious neighbour-versus-neighbour altercations happen very rarely, but if it does escalate to a criminal level, Oak Bay police try to deal with the situation at the earliest point they can, said Andy Brinton, Oak Bay Police Chief Constable.
“Initially, it’s not often criminal in nature per se, but if left unnatended, it can escalate,” he said, adding that if police get involved, usually it’s more as a mediation role,” he said. “Sometimes there’s misinformation on both party sides, sometimes it’s bylaw issues, so we’ll bring the municipality into that. If it does ever escalate to a criminal level, we’re certainly going to get involved.”
Brinton emphasized that often, those involved are not “criminal-types” so an alternative, or restorative justice, or some kind of resolution isn’t far from reach.
Still, when emotions run high, some situations get out of hand quickly.
“By the time we get a call, people have tried to deal with it themselves and there hasn’t been any resolution, and emotions start flying, so it’s kind of our role to sort of break things down as best we can, de-escalate it, and find the root problem,” Brinton said, adding that criminal harassment and mischief is the police’s main concern, such as following people, damaging property and physically/verbally attacking an individual.
Though such cases are rare, some pursue civil remedies, such as a restraining order or an injunction filed by a civil court.
But civil action between neighbours isn’t always such a great idea either, Brinton added.
“That’s not something we’d like to see, because you still have to live next door to each other… as soon as you start going into a formal process like that, you’re never going to rebuild that relationship.”
For more info on Ashley Migneault’s Neighbours Against Bullying group, visit neighboursagainstbullying.com.