It’s one thing to have laws, quite another to apply them. People will be happy to see we’re off to a good start on step one: legislation proposed in the province to deal with cyberbullying.
Justice Minister Ross Landry has also held discussions with his federal counterpart, Rob Nicholson, and other ministers across the country on the need for changes to the Criminal Code to address the distribution of intimate photos online without the subject’s consent.
The sudden tackling of these issues comes in the wake of the death of Halifax’s Rehtaeh Parsons. Many, of course, will call the political attention long overdue, since the problem has been growing for a long time.
Because of the complexity of the technology involved, the issue has drawn blanks over the years in how to prosecute wrongdoers.
In the tragic case involving Parsons, recall that people were perplexed over the failure to mount charges – if not for an alleged sexual assault, then at least for distribution of child porn, since Parsons was 15 when the images of the assault were put online.
One accompanying feature with this new legislation will be an investigative team trained to deal with cyberbullying complaints. But even with that it will take a lot of fine-tuning to positively identify a wrongdoer, to avoid the risk of losing the case to a rights appeal and to provide evidence that carries a good chance of conviction.
We welcome any new laws that will tackle such criminal behaviour, but ensure the resources are there enabling this new team to detect those responsible, otherwise we just have more laws that aren’t enforceable. That will be the harder part. These are crimes in which, by the nature of the commission, there is no smoking gun.
Parsons’ father said his daughter was “disappointed to death” by the lack of response from authorities over her complaint. Done thoroughly, this measure has the potential to see that more aren’t similarly disappointed.