Justice Minister Ross Landry talks to reporters in this file photo. RYAN TAPLIN/METRO HALIFAX
HALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s justice minister is pushing Ottawa to make it illegal to distribute intimate images for a malicious or sexual purpose without consent, a move he says was prompted by the death of Rehtaeh Parsons.
Ross Landry said Friday that he plans to raise the matter with federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson next week in Ottawa.
Landry said he decided to ask for changes to the Criminal Code after meeting with Leah Parsons, Rehtaeh’s mother.
“It’s one of the commitments that I made last week to Ms. Parsons in the discussion,” said Landry.
“As I heard her and others speak, it’s about images getting out there that don’t have the permission of the parties involved.”
Landry said he would like to see the law also result in the prosecution of people who redistribute the images in question. But he added that part of his discussion with Nicholson would focus on whether such a law would be enforceable.
Dan MacRury, a Crown prosecutor who is Nova Scotia’s representative on a national cybercrime working group, said he believes an enforceable law could be put in place, despite the challenges presented by technology.
“The child pornography provisions that are before the code are enforceable and they involve technology at the present time,” said MacRury.
“From a technology point of view, it’s like any investigation. (Police) would have to prove who sent the item.”
He said what constitutes an intimate image would have to be worked out as the law is drafted, but the intent would be to crack down on the distribution of harmful images depicting genitalia.
“Obviously we wouldn’t be looking at just kissing.”
MacRury said while there are provisions in the Criminal Code that outlaw child pornography, there are no protections in place to prevent the malicious dissemination of sexual images for adults. He said the province would also push to address that gap.
Nicholson could not be reached for comment.
Andrew Younger, the Liberal Opposition deputy house leader, said he welcomed the initiative, particularly after Landry had initially said he saw no reason to delve further into Rehtaeh’s case.
“He recognized quite quickly that this was a more serious issue than he realized and he’s taking action now,” said Younger.
The 17-year-old Halifax girl attempted suicide on April 4 and was taken off life-support three days later. Her family alleges she was sexually assaulted by four boys in November 2011 and a photograph of the incident was passed around her school.
The RCMP said they looked into the allegations but concluded in consultation with Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service there were no grounds to lay charges. They have since reopened theirinvestigation after receiving what they describe as “new and "credible” information.
Premier Darrell Dexter has also announced an independent review of the RCMP’s original investigation once the current probe concludes.
He also appointed Marilyn More, the minister responsible for the status of women, to oversee the province’s overall response to Rehtaeh’s death.
On Thursday, More announced the appointment of two education experts from Ontario to conduct an independent review of how the Halifax Regional School Board responded.