Do Recent Cyber Bullying Cases Actually Highlight the Need for Canadian Law Reform?

Certainly, cyber bullying and harassment is a serious and issue in North American society, but recent claims that there is a need for a change in the current criminal law to deal with it may be overzealous.

As set out in the attached article, Bill C 13 is currently being considered by the Canadian parliament and is unlikely to pass it its current form. Bill C 13 proposes changes to the criminal code to make posting of sexually explicit images of a person without their consent illegal, and would allow courts to remove those images from the web. But, beyond that it calls to have the current standard required to be proved by the police lowered, for when they are attempting to obtain a warrant to search for someone’s online information.

The Amanda Todd case seems to be the catalyst for the movement, and the standard in the media, by which other cases are measured. Her story is tragic, and we as a country can only hope that her death brings about change, and I would say it has. It has brought this issue to the forefront of media attention and made it a must-have topic of conversation for parents and educators. But does this mean that it should transfer into law reform?

If Bill C 13 had been in place at the time Amanda Todd was being tormented would it have made a difference? Although the accused is innocent until proven guilty, the Canadian authorities are alleging that the person who cyber stalked and bullied Amanda Todd was doing it from a different continent. The police in Canada would have had to seek a warrant and the release of information from a foreign government and they would be subject to the rules associated with that country’s laws. Our laws would have been largely irrelevant in the investigation.

The existing Criminal Code offences of Criminal Harassment, Uttering Threats, Extortion and Child Pornography cover the vast majority of cyber stalking and bullying behaviour, and in fact even if Bill 13 were passed, it is almost certain that if the person who victimized Amanda Todd was charged in Canada he would be charged under those sections.

Making it criminal to post sexually explicit materials of a person without their consent seems to be a forward thinking response to new problems we are seeing associated with cyber stalking and bullying. But saying that recent cases highlight some sort of huge gap in Canadian law, that needs to catch up to current technology, is misleading. In Canada police have the tools they need to catch people who are committing these types of acts on-line, and the privacy rights of Canadians are well protected by that system.

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