Nova Scotia’s new cyber safety bill is a barrier for victims: Privacy lawyer
The man who took down Nova Scotia’s first anti-cyberbullying law says the province’s proposed replacement will make it difficult for victims to access justice.
David Fraser, a prominent Internet and privacy lawyer, says the Intimate Images and Cyber-protection Act, also known as Bill 27, places barriers in front of those who will need it the most.
“What they’ve made people do is essentially launch a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia,” he told Global News on Thursday.
“Instead of having a streamlined process into courts, they have to get in line with everybody else who is suing everybody else in court, so it could be some months before an individual has an opportunity to appear before a judge.”
Fraser said if someone is looking to get something taken down — such as intimate photographs — then that delay could cause significant harm to the person.
He said the previous bill didn’t ensure the accused would be given due process, but the new bill swings too far in the other direction.
“It takes it from a streamlined process — that was too streamlined — into an incredibly cumbersome, bureaucratic process that’s full of all sorts of procedural traps and snares.”
Fraser suggests the government change the process to instead follow one similar to getting a peace bond. That would bring the matter to the provincial court and make it less formal while still ensuring there are checks and balances in place.
The bill is still working its way through the legislature, so it’s still possible to change it.
If the government doesn’t change Bill 27, Fraser said victims could be forced to pay high legal bills or navigate a complex system on their own.
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Justice Minister Mark Furey said there’s a fine line to tread with the law and the government is open to suggestions.
“It’s a fine balance to find that point where you’re responding to needs of victims and at the same time respecting the courts and the Charter,” he said.
“We believe we’ve landed in that general space.”
The government says it’s still considering whether to accept any changes to the bill and whether to pass it this fall or give more time for review and pass it in the spring.
Fraser is calling on the government to take its time with the bill and ensure it’s done right. Once it’s passed, he warns, the government will be less willing to make amendments.
The opposition parties, though, are at odds on what the governing Liberals should do. The Tories argue now is the time to act but the NDP says there is no reason to rush.
“The main thing is that the government takes as long as needed to get this right,” said NDP Leader Gary Burrill.
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Fraser challenged the original bill, known as the Cyber-safety Act, two years ago on constitutional grounds as part of a case involving client Robert Snell.
Snell was placed under a cyber safety protection order sought by his former business partner last December.
Fraser argued the law was too broad and an “unreasonable and unjustified” infringement of freedom of expression rights.
Justice Glen MacDougall of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia Friday seemed to agree, calling the bill a “colossal failure” in his decision.
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