April 24, 2013 2:45 pm

Cyberbullying at top of agenda during justice ministers meeting

TORONTO – Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said he wants a review of laws to combat cyberbullying expedited and completed by June at a press conference Wednesday before a meeting with provincial justice ministers.

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The announcement followed a meeting yesterday between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the father of Rehtaeh Parsons, the Nova Scotia teen who took her own life earlier this month following an alleged rape and online campaign of harassment.

Rehtaeh’s death comes after another high-profile suicide in British Columbia where 15 year-old Amanda Todd also took her own life in October 2012 following months of online harassment.

Glenn Canning, Rehtaeh’s father, told the prime minister during an emotional meeting that Canadian parents need better resources to fight the growing problem of cyberbullying.

Tuesday Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews launched consultations on the “Canadian Victim’s Bill of Rights.”

“The Harper Government is committed to standing up for victims of crime and ensuring that victims have a more effective voice in the criminal justice system,” Minister Nicholson said in a press release. “Today’s consultations are critical to identifying and recognizing how to better entrench the rights of victims into a single law at the federal level, as part of our government’s commitment to victims of crime.”

Victim’s bills of rights already exist in several provinces and can be difficult to enforce says a legal expert.

Nicholas Bala, a Queen’s University professor and expert on youth crime, told Global News that fighting cyberbullying requires more than just law enforcement.

“Law reform is a part of the process, but changes in the education system are probably more important,” said Bala. “The idea is to change people’s behaviour. This requires changing attitudes, and changing understandings. Teachers have to understand how damaging cyberbullying is and communicate that to young offenders.”

Bala said because the accused has a constitutional right to a fair trial it can be difficult to increase the rights of victims.

Last week Nova Scotia Finance Minister Ross Landry proposed a new law to make it illegal for people who distribute intimate images without consent for malicious or sexual purposes. Saskatchewan’s justice minister has publicly supported Landry’s proposition.

© Shaw Media, 2013

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