New report urges for cyber bullying law

A photo of Rehtaeh Parsons, from the Facebook page in memory of her.
A photo of Rehtaeh Parsons, from the Facebook page in memory of her.

A report presented by the Coordinating Committee of Senior Officials (CCSO) Cybercrime Working Group has been presented to all government levels for consideration.

The report released in June was sent to ministers responsible for justice and public safety. It urged that the Criminal Code surrounding cyber bullying and non-consensual distribution of intimate images be modernized to cover gaps in current laws.

The report was commissioned after the tragic death of 17-year-old Nova Scotia resident, Rehteah Parsons.

Parsons committed suicide in April 2013 being bullied and pursued for over a year after her alleged rape.

According to Business Insider, Parsons’ family blames the suicide on her classmates who relentlessly bullied Parsons after an image of her rape was distributed throughout school.

On Friday, as one of his first moves as Justice Minister, Peter MacKay announced the release of the report that he is seriously considering along with the direction that federal government should take from it.

“The report recommends creating a new law against non-consensual distribution of intimate images and enhancing current criminal law responses to bullying, including cyber bullying,” said MacKay.

“I look forward to working together with the provinces and territories as we make improvements to our justice system to prevent such tragic circumstances from happening again.”

According to the report, the majority of “serious bullying behaviour” is already covered under the current Criminal Code offences.

But, after reading many academic and research papers on the subject of cyber bullying and emerging electronic media, the Working Group came up with the following recommendation:

“The Working Group recommends that the Criminal Code be amended to modernize certain existing offences to deal with harassment through electronic media, as well as the investigative powers for law enforcement, to ensure that all acts of cyber bullying carried out through the use of new technologies can be effectively investigated and prosecuted.”

Along with that, the Working Group made several other recommendations including the recommendation “that all levels of government continue to adopt and support a multipronged approach to addressing these issues.”

MacKay will now consider the report.


In a press release Monday, Attorney General John Garretsen explained the concern which Ontario specifically has had with the distribution of intimate images for years.

“Since 2011, we have been calling on the federal government to amend the Criminal Code to make it an offence to distribute sexually explicit images of a person without their consent.”

In 2009, Ontario became the first province in Canada to make it mandatory for the reporting of bullying within the school system’s Keeping Our Kids Safe at School Act.

In 2012, the Accepting Schools Act was passed which requires school boards to have bullying prevention and intervention plans in place for times when necessary.

With the “I’ve Got Your Back” program, developed by high school students, Police officers are able to work with high school students on Internet safety, anti-cyber bullying and anti-sexting strategies.

“Ontario is committed to ensuring our children are able to thrive in schools and communities that are safe, inclusive and accepting,” said Garretsen.

“We will continue working with the federal government and our partners in the justice and education sectors to make sure our resources are being used effectively to put an end to cyber bullying.”

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