Government introduced a new law today, Oct. 5, intended to help protect victims of cyber-bullying.
The proposed Intimate Images and Cyber-protection Act responds to the harms of sharing intimate images without consent and cyber-bullying. It also protects and upholds the fundamental freedoms of thought, belief, opinion and expression.
“Smartphones and social media have taken bullying from the playground, campus, or workplace to online and quickly in the hands of many, where the victim has no escape,” said Justice Minister Mark Furey. “This act will help address the issues with the original act and helps victims by providing options for dealing with the people who want to harm them.”
The Nova Scotia Supreme Court struck down the original legislation in this area, the Cyber-safety Act, in 2015. That law, the first of its kind in Canada, assisted many Nova Scotians who were victims of cyber-bullying, but was declared of “no force and effect” for violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including infringing on the freedom of expression.
The new act deals with actions that are maliciously intended to cause harm to victims or that were reckless with regard to the risk of harm, but that might not be effectively dealt with through Criminal Code or other civil remedies. It would create civil remedies to prevent sharing intimate images without consent and cyber-bullying, balance freedom of expression with public safety and assist Nova Scotians in responding to cyber-bullying.
The act would allow a victim, or parents, to go to court for:
— a protective order for alleged offenders to stop, take down a webpage or prohibit further contact with the victim
— a referral to dispute resolution with the CyberSCAN unit
— an order to pay damages (financial compensation).
Where action is deemed to be criminal, a victim may be advised by the CyberSCAN unit to contact police. An action under this act could proceed at the same time as a criminal investigation or prosecution.
The act gives the CyberSCAN unit, which was created by the former legislation, authority to support and help victims navigate the process for getting images or posts removed. It can also resolve disputes and negotiate and mediate for victims, and will continue to provide public education. CyberSCAN has responded to more than 800 requests for help with cyber-bullying and provided over 900 education sessions in schools.
Since the Cyber-safety Act was struck down, the Department of Justice has held targeted consultations with cyber-bullying and legal experts, Victim Services, police and CyberSCAN staff as well as with victims, families and some members of the public. This feedback helped shape the act and further feedback will be drawn through special sittings of the law amendments committee, with plans to pass the bill in the spring.
Source: Media Release