A Joint Federal-Provincial-Territorial Report report on Cyberbullying and the Non-consensual Distribution of Intimate Images was released earlier today by the Canadian government. The Report is divided into two parts, with the first part of the report addressing the issue of cyberbullying, including information relating to the scope of the problem, the impact of cyberbullying on victims, existing legislative and policy responses and options for Criminal Code reform to address the issue. The second part of the Report addresses the issue of the non-consensual distribution of intimate images and contains information about the scope of the problem, existing Criminal Code responses and options for a new Criminal Code offence. Work on this report began in October 2012, when the Federal/Provincial/Territorial (FPT) Ministers responsible for Justice and Public Safety directed senior officials to identify potential gaps in the Criminal Code on cyberbullying and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images and report back to Deputy Ministers.
At present, there is no universally accepted definition of what constitutes cyberbullying, although common elements can be found in many of the definitions examined. The Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights Report entitled, Cyberbullying Hurts: Respect for Rights in the Digital Age (PDF Senate Report) acknowledges the difficulty in achieving consensus upon a single definition of cyberbullying, primarily because there is no common understanding of what comprises this activity. The Senate Report found support for the notion that cyberbullying is a form of traditional bullying, and noted that cyberbullying includes acts intended to intimidate, embarrass, threaten or harass the targeted victims. This new report expands on the findings of several Provincial and Federal reports – links to all of which can be found in this latest report.
The Honourable Peter MacKay, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Central Nova, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, issued the following statement today to coincide with his receipt of the finalized report:
“Following the tragic suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons in April, the federal, provincial and territorial governments agreed unanimously to expedite a review of our laws surrounding cyberbullying,” stated the . “Today I am pleased to announce that I have received the report by federal, provincial and territorial officials on cyberbullying and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. The report recommends creating a new law against non-consensual distribution of intimate images and enhancing current criminal law responses to bullying, including cyberbullying.”
“In addition, the report recommends modernizing – subject to appropriate judicial oversight – investigative powers in the Criminal Code to facilitate the investigation of criminal activity involving electronic communications. The report also recommends that all levels of government continue to build on initiatives to address the issue of cyberbullying in a comprehensive manner, including prevention, education, and awareness-raising activities. For my part, I will consider the report and its recommendations, which will help guide the way forward to ensuring our children are safe from online exploitation. The Government of Canada has taken significant steps toward cracking down on violent crimes, preventing victimization, and addressing the harmful behaviours associated with bullying and cyberbullying. For example, under the National Crime Prevention Strategy, in the fall of 2012, the Government of Canada committed up to $10 million toward new crime prevention projects, including the prevention of school-based bullying, focused on children and youth.
“GetCyberSafe, the Government of Canada’s public awareness campaign on online safety, has information about cyberbullying that includes how to talk to youth about it and how to respond to this type of incident, and NeedHelpNow.ca is a new resource designed to help youth who have made the mistake of sending sexual images of themselves to peers, which can lead to cyberbullying. The site offers youth tips on removing content, strategies for addressing peers and moving forward, as well as information on possible related Criminal Code violations. I sincerely thank federal, provincial and territorial officials for having collaborated on this vital report. 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.”
Following the Report’s release, BC’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton issued this statement in support of the Report’s recommendations:
“Electronic and online communications play a central role in the lives of Canadians, and our youth in particular. While electronic devices, websites and social media can connect individuals and provide a source of entertainment, they also can be used to harm others. Canadians have every expectation that our laws ensure their privacy and safety when engaging in these activities. That’s why British Columbia brought the issue of cyberbullying to the table at the federal-provincial-territorial justice and public safety ministers’ meeting in Regina in 2012. The subsequent report, which has been released today by the federal minister of justice on behalf of federal, provincial and territorial ministers of justice, outlines important next steps as we continue our collective work to combat cyberbullying and the distribution of intimate images. The B.C. government supports the report’s nine recommendations, including the modernization of several specific Criminal Code provisions. We already are following the recommendation that a multi-layered approach be applied when dealing with these social problems. They cannot be solved through criminal law alone. That’s why government has implemented innovative education programs and an online reporting tool. While the federal government and the provinces consider these proposed Criminal Code changes, it’s important for parents, guardians, schools, classmates, the police and community groups to work together on prevention, and stand united in the protection of our youth against these exploitive activities.”