The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, last Wednesday introduced legislation to address criminal behaviour associated with cyberbullying.
“Our government is committed to ensuring that our children are safe from online predators and from online exploitation. We have an obligation to help put an end to harmful online harassment and exploitation. Cyberbullying goes far beyond schoolyard bullying and, in some cases, can cross the line into criminal activity,” said MacKay, in a press release.
“With the click of a computer mouse, a person can be victimized before the entire world. As we have seen far too often, such conduct can destroy lives. It clearly demands a stronger criminal justice response, and we intend to provide one.”
The legislation being introduced would:
* Prohibit the non-consensual distribution of intimate images;
* Empower a court to order the removal of intimate images from the Internet;
* Permit the court to order forfeiture of the computer, cellphone or other device used in the offence;
* Provide for reimbursement to victims for costs incurred in removing the intimate image from the Internet or elsewhere; and
* Empower the court to make an order to prevent someone from distributing intimate images.
The proposed investigative powers to identify and remedy this and other cybercrimes would be subject to appropriate judicial oversight.
“The sexual predator legislation is so much stronger now because we have seen so much of that lately now where people have taken their lives having to deal with it,” said Medicine Hat MP Lavar Payne.
“I am very pleased this bill is going forward. Getting the message out with the bill to parents and younger students so that they understand the implications. Sometimes I think people do not realize how powerful social media really can be.”
Payne remembers the days he was bullied as a youth which now has increased ten fold with the advent of social media that was not available to previous generations.
The government worked closely with the provinces and territories in developing the report and recommendations on which this legislation is closely based.
“We did have a couple of parents here whose kids took their lives from bullying. It is such a tragedy and we have been talking with victims. Hopefully that message will get tout there where certainly from a criminal activity point of view, people will get the message that this will not be tolerated,” said Payne. Because of the social media, if we were back in the other days you just wouldn’t see that type of thing. I am sure bullying will go on forever, but the cyber and social media aspect of it is just enormous. That goes worldwide where it can be awful, awful for the victims. I have grandkids and I would certainly not want them to be cyberbullied.”
Working with partners in the public and private sectors, the Government of Canada is taking action to address all forms of bullying through education, awareness and prevention activities.
The federal government is also supporting the development of a number of school-based projects to prevent bullying, as part of $10 million in funding that was committed in 2012 towards new crime prevention projects.
“Apart from the legislation, I hope that somehow this message is getting relayed through the schools. I don’t know if kids are as mature as we were in our day, and because of all this new technology, I don’t know if they all know how to handle it,” said Payne. “You get these photos out there on social media, it’s hard to manage it. It’s out there in cyberspace for everyone to see.”
Other important projects that the government supports to address cyberbullying include the Cybertip.ca and NeedHelpNow.ca websites operated by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. Canadians can use these websites to report online sexual exploitation of children and to seek help for exploitation resulting from the sharing of sexual images.