Cyberbullying Laws in Canada and Nova Scotia
Victims of cyberbullying have places to turn as Nova Scotia leads with cyber-safety laws. Nova Scotia’s Justice Minister Ross Landry announced that its people can seek a protection order from the court in a criminal action if their child or they are being cyberbullied. The new protection also provides the right to a civil lawsuit against the perpetrators of cyberbullying. These are provided in the Cyber-safety Act of Nova Scotia to protect victims and hold cyber bullies accountable for their actions.
The parts of the Cyber-safety Act of Nova Scotia allow victims to apply through the Justice of the Peace centre for a protection order restricting and/or identifying the cyberbully. Victims can also sue under the Cyberbullying Laws and parents held liable for damages if the cyberbully is a minor.
“We’ve all been affected by cyberbullying, whether it has happened to us or someone we know or we’ve just seen it online,” said Chantel O’Brien, a member of the province’s Youth Advisory Council. “These amendments will be a wake-up call to those who think they can hide behind a computer to avoid being held accountable. It’s reassuring to see the government taking action to ensure youth can feel safe in their own homes.”
The Education Act clarifies now in detail the role of principals in acting. They have a clear responsibility to respond, even to incidents that occur beyond the school ground or after school hours. The CyberSCAN unit, the first in Canada, is the final piece of the Cyber-safety Act. The unit will be running in September and five investigators will investigate all complaints of cyber bullying, whether the victim is a minor or an adult.
For more information about the Nova Scotia Cyber-safety Act, go to http://novascotia.ca/just/ .
In the USA, due to State’s individual rights having priority in many issues, local and state laws are on the statute books for criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits regarding Cyberbullying Laws perpetrators of Cyber Bullying of both minors and adults. This means 50 individual states have governing methods of prosecution and punishments for Cyberbullying Laws violations, and individuals should become familiar with their resident state’s statutes. However, the U.S. Federal government has avenues in place under the Department of Justice and Department of Education that incorporate one’s Civil Rights in defense against bullying or cyber bullying:U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
FEDERAL – . When bullying and harassment overlap, federally-funded schools (including colleges and universities) are obliged by law to resolve the harassment. When not adequately resolved, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division may be able to help. No matter what label is used (e.g., bullying, hazing, teasing, Cyberbullying Laws), schools are obligated by these laws to address conduct that is:
- Severe, pervasive or persistent
- Creates a hostile environment at school. That is, it interferes with or limits a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or opportunities offered by a school
- Based on a student’s race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion*
- Although the US Department of Education, under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not directly cover religion, religious based harassment is based on shared ancestry of ethnic characteristics, that is covered. The US Department of Justice has jurisdiction over religion under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Cyberbullying Laws in Canada – What are a school’s obligations regarding harassment?
Anyone can report harassing conduct to a school and upon receiving the report, the school must take certain steps to investigate and resolve the situation.
- Immediate and appropriate action to investigate or otherwise determine what happened.
- Inquiry must be prompt, thorough, and impartial.
- Interview targeted students, offending students, and witnesses, and maintain written documentation of investigation
- Communicate with targeted students re: steps taken to end harassment
- Check in with targeted students to ensure harassment has ceased
- When an investigation reveals harassment has occurred, a school must take steps reasonably calculated to:
- End harassment,
- Eliminate hostile environment,
- Prevent a recurrence, and
- Prevent retaliation against the target or complainant(s).
If harassment persists, victims should initiate filing of a formal grievance with the district and contacting the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.