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Anti-cyberbullying law created after Rehtaeh Parsons’ death squashed by N.S. court

HALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s groundbreaking anti-cyberbullying law, inspired by the Rehtaeh Parsons case, was struck down by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia Friday.

Justice Glen McDougall also declined a Crown request to suspend his declaration that the law is invalid for a year, which would give the legislature time to amend it.

READ MORE: Report finds Rehtaeh Parsons “did not receive support and assistance” required

“It’s really sad for the youth,” said Rehtaeh’s mother, Leah Parsons.

Lawyer David Fraser challenged the Cyber-safety Act on constitutional grounds as part of a case involving client Robert Snell, who was placed under a cyber safety protection order sought by his former business partner last December.

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Fraser argued the law was too broad and an “unreasonable and unjustified” infringement of freedom of expression rights.

The Crown said the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized the freedom of expression is not an “absolute right” and that social values will at times conflict and some limits must be placed even on fundamental rights.

“There is a need”

Justice Minister Diana Whalen said Friday she’s disappointed the law has been struck down, calling Nova Scotia a trailblazers for coming up with the law in the first place.

“We do believe there is a need, that there’s a gap in the current legislation without it so I think we need to look at it and decide what we want to do next,” she said.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia Cyber Safety Act stirs debate

She added that the government can choose to appeal the decision or rewrite the law, but no decision has been made yet on what the next steps will be.

Whalen said the CyberSCAN unit will stay in place and it will likely just provide education for people now. More than 800 people have come to the cyber scan unit since it started.

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“We need to educate people about the harm that can be caused with cyberbullying,” she said.

The law was passed in May 2013 in response to public outrage over 18-year-old Parsons’ death in April, 2013.

With files from Heide Pearson, Natasha Pace.

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