What is violence?
There is no consensus for a definition of violence. Indeed, any attempt to define the term runs into the difficulty of setting limits or defining the perception of those who suggest the definition (Jolly, 2002). Cultural factors must be taken into account when determining what constitutes acceptable behaviour, and the definition must be constantly rewritten as values and social norms evolve. There are actually many ways to define violence, depending on who writes the definition and in what context. However, it is important to clarify and refine the concept in order to establish a coherent, shared understanding within the education community.
To this end, the Ministère, working closely with a committee of experts associated with the action plan, proposes a definition that respects the elements considered in different studies of the issue. This mesh of knowledge and practice has led to the following definition of violence, to be used to guide the actions set out in the action plan:
Any use of force—verbal, written, physical, psychological or sexual—against any person, by an individual or a group, with intent to directly or indirectly wrong, injure or oppress that person by attacking his or her integrity, psychological or physical well-being, rights or property (MELS, 2009).
This definition presents the elements used to define violent behaviour :
- The aggressor demonstrates power in terms of strength and expresses or shows this power, with the intention to wrong, hurt or oppress someone (himself/herself or someone else).
- This demonstration of violence may be made by an individual (a student, a staff member, an administrator, a parent, etc.), by a group (a group of students, a class, a team of teachers, a school committee, etc.) or a community (special interest group, etc.).
- Violence can be direct or indirect, may involve an intermediary or use means that are disguised or difficult to perceive.
Agreeing on a definition of violence can bring solid support to the school community, both in establishing objectives to prevent and deal with violence and in determining the actions to take and evaluating their impact.