Canadian Justice Minister Peter Mackay made a speech to the Canadian Bar Association last month. In that speech, he did some talking about cyber bullying and the current Bullying Laws in Canada. Specifically, he said that he wanted to crack down on cyber bullying,using more active bullying laws in canada, also mentioning sexual predators, and drunk drivers. He also said there needs to be more help for victims of these crimes.
Minister Mackay told the assembled crowd that his office was currently working on more bullying laws in Canada that he is calling a bill of rights for victims. As the first step in crafting this legislation, the Minister and his aides heard several horrible stories from people that had been harmed and were having problems moving through the current legal process.
These people said that while there have been improvements to the system their needs weren’t being met in ways that the needs of criminals are being met, especially when it comes to legal representation and advice. There was nobody assigned to them to let them know what was going on and what was happening during the legal process, to help them understand the process.
This last part goes hand in hand with the Canadian BAR Association report that was also discussed that said that access to legal assistance in Canada is “abysmal.” The report also states that those at the lower ends of the economic spectrum are the ones that suffer the most from this inability to obtain legal advice. One thing the report mentions as being able to bridge this access gap is through federally-funded civil legal aid.
He also discussed the problems in prosecuting people that transmit images without the consent of every subject in the image; problems that even exists when the images are sexually explicit and involves minors and/or young adults.
He attributes these problems to holes in the Criminal Code that his office has identified. Mackay hopes to have legislation completed in time to bring it before parliament in the coming session that addresses and closes these gaps in the Criminal Code. One of the largest and most glaring gaps in the Code is that it currently isn’t illegal to transmit explicit images without the consent of those in the photo.
The April case of a Nova Scotia teen who committed suicide because, as her family states, four boys sexually assaulted her and then allowed a picture of it to circulate at their school without the girl’s consent, was brought up and discussed. A report was commissioned and released in July (partly in response to the Nova Scotia case) that states the law as it currently is doesn’t do enough to protect the rights of the victim in these cases.
Minister Mackay said that more and tougher bullying laws in Canada aren’t the only way to solve the problem and that it isn’t going to go away overnight. There needs to be collaboration at all levels, from the federal on down to the discussions that go on in individual homes across the nation.
In related news on Bullying Laws in Canada , Minister Mackay, who is also the M.P. for Central Nova, along with Minister Gail Shea, M.P. for Egmont and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, have recently issued a call for proposals to address cyber bullying among the under twenty age group. This CFP will make available under the Youth Justice Fund, up to $390,000 to provinces and territories to develop anti-cyber bullying programs.
Minister Mackay says that cyber bullying is a problem that is a complex and emerging one in our modern technologically-based era. He says it’s a problem that requires a response that is comprehensive from community groups, non-governmental organizations, and all levels of government including police and educators.
Provinces and territories across Canada will be able to develop and put together programs of effective responses in the youth justice system in cases of criminal conduct where cyber bullying is involved. This criminal conduct can include the utterance of threats, offences related to child pornography, and criminal harassment.
The law in Canada states that the federal government can only give general direction as to how monies such as these are used. This means each territory and province can tailor their program to their individual needs. Programs that will be considered include those to develop ways for schools to discuss the best types of responses when the schools are made aware of a problem and research programs targeted at developing ways to get the community involved in ending cyber bullying.