We have said before in this paper something needs to be done about cyber-bullying. It is a problem that just keeps on growing, and has dire consequences like in the Rehtaeh Parsons case.
However the new law might just tread on the Canadian Charters of Rights and Freedoms.
The new law allows victims of bullying to sue their bullies, gives schools more authority, and allows for fines or jail time.
Where we run afoul specifically is freedom of expression. It is an important part of our rights, that lets us voice our opinion.
Here is an excerpt from the new law about cyber-bullying, which is any electronic communication
"that is intended or ought reasonably be expected to cause fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other damage or harm to another person’s health, emotional well-being, self-esteem or reputation, and includes assisting or encouraging such communication in any way."
It is quite a broad definition. The Advance gets emails on a fairly regular basis that would fit. Some may argue articles we post online could be construed as bullying as well. It may seem ridiculous on the surface, but someone will try at some point.
There have been calls for something to be done for the past several years, and the province put together a task force earlier this on this very issue. A lot has been said, but so far this is the only real concrete solution to come out of the province.
The school boards have also looked at what they can do. Last Spring they brought in NSTU executive staff officer Betty Jean Aucoin to present Appropriate Online Behaviour and Digital Citizenship to Queens County.
However at a session offered to parents at in South Queens, barely anyone showed up. Those that did come out were mostly teachers. If cyberbullying is that much of a concern, the room should have been packed.
Something isn't making a connection. Whether it is denial over it happening or denial that their child might be the perpetrator, parents don't seem to be interested in taking an active role. If the parents don't see the point of learning the rules, why should their children? This is going to need change if there is going to be any real change in the way our children act.
We have a fairly robust set of laws in Canada already around harassment, and it would make much more sense to update those laws to include the cyber world.
We have to realize also that this new law will cost a lot of time and money as well. It will tie up our law enforcement system and our court systems with what are mostly minor charges. It is conceivable that if a charge is challenged, it won't get resolved until both victim and bully have graduated from school.
One child committing suicide is one too many. We can change things for the better, and help those that are victims of bullying. However we need to make sure efforts to combat cyber-bullying don't tread on the legitimate the rights of our citizens.