Case should attract scrutiny

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Ever since the passage of legislation this past year to counter the problem of cyberbullying, many have wondered just how the law would work. They’ll get an opportunity in a case scheduled for court.

This instance involves claims made by Andrea Paul, chief of the Pictou Landing First Nation, to be presented in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax next week. The allegation is that a man known to Paul posted comments on Facebook sites that, according to information file, were demeaning, defamatory and threatening.

This will offer a test of the Cyber-safety Act – and also marks the first Nova Scotians have seen the CyberSCAN unit in action, which is tasked with investigating cyberbullying complaints.

For any of those skeptical about such legislation, the criticisms tend to focus on free expression – and whether complainants might make use of the law as an easy way to shut someone down they don’t want to hear. But considering the act is one outcome following the sad case of Rehtaeh Parsons – whose family claims she took her life last year after suffering non-stop bullying online – it’s reasonable to justify recourse against people who take advantage of electronic media for cowardly uses.

In an article from The Canadian Press about the current complaint, Wayne MacKay, a cyberbullying expert and law professor at Dalhousie University, discusses central points. The law is designed to allow opportunity for a complainant and the accused to resolve their differences through civil proceedings. As a comparison, MacKay referred to cases of domestic violence and the use of restraining orders.

Penalties under the legislation can be stringent. In addition to sentences, a penalty could involve the confiscation of computer equipment or cellphones.

Nova Scotians will indeed be paying close attention to this case, the outcome and application of penalties, if allegations are proven. It usually takes the profile of a legal case to get such messages across.

Organizations: Pictou Landing First Nation, Nova Scotia Supreme Court, CyberSCAN Canadian Press Dalhousie University

Geographic location: Nova Scotians, Halifax

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