In response to the public pressure following the suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons (the 17-year-old girl from Canada who was gang-raped then bullied and cyberbullied, especially after a photo of the event was passed around the school), Nova Scotia has passed some new anti-cyberbullying legislation called the Cyber-Safety Act.

The legislation allows victims of cyberbullying to apply to a justice of the peace for an ex parte protection order against their bully. It gives victims the ability to sue their alleged cyberbullies, or if the bully is a minor, his or her parents may be held liable for damages. In the most extreme cases, the bully may have their phone and computers confiscated by police, have their internet cut off, be ordered to stop using electronic devices entirely, have all their internet data supplied to the police by your internet service provider, be gagged by the court, and be prohibited from mentioning the victim's name online. Violation of whichever of these the judge has decided upon can lead to fines as well as the possibility of up to two years of jail time.

The bill also creates the Cyber SCAN investigation unit, which will be composed of 5 cyber abuse investigators to respond to all complaints of cyberbullying. They'll look into the situation, at the evidence, and seek resolutions between the victim and the accused in a safe and open way, hopefully before any court orders are issued. The bill also modifies the Nova Scotia Education Act in such a way so as to, as one article described, "clarify the roles of principals when the issue affects schools. Principals now have a more clear responsibility to respond, even to incidents that occur off of school grounds and after school hours."

I'm really hoping this will make a difference, that it will actually have an effect on this issue. That said, I'm not exactly expecting it. I'm not sure how many of these kids are going to willingly open up to their parents about all of the bullying they're receiving. In a lot of these cases, it seems like there's a sexual component that they might not feel comfortable discussing with their parents. They might be blaming themselves for "letting themselves" get raped by getting drunk or passing out, might think that their parents always told them not to drink but they did anyone and look what happened. Or they may be too ashamed to tell their parents that they flashed a guy they were talking to online once and now he's threatening to send those pictures to your school or something. (NOTE: I am NOT blaming the victims at all here! I'm just imagining what might be going through their heads in such situations, especially given the rape culture and slut-shaming these days.) What sort of social repercussions will students who have to file protection orders face?

So, what say you? What's your take on all this? Is this a step in the right direction? Does it go too far? Far enough? Do you think we'll be seeing more bills like this any time soon?

Advertisement

[CNN, CBC, The Chronicle Herald, Maclean's]