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Canada’s Cyberbullying Legislation Causes Controversy

www.endcyberbullying.org

After two major incidents of Rahtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on May 10, 2013 that he will be pursuing a legislation to criminalize cyberbullying. Almost a year later, C-13, the cybercrime bill is on its final stages of being signed into law, designed to allow the law enforcement to more effectively deal with cybercrimes, including cyberbullying and harassment.

However, the way in which the bill was written is causing controversy. Critics have called the legislation an overhaul of government surveillance, a way for the conservatives to “normalize online surveillance” under the pretense of protecting cyberbullied victims such as Amanda Todd.

The bill “allow[sic] any “public officer” or “peace officer” the freedom to request personal data from telecom companies, while providing those same telecom companies legal immunity for turning over data,” said Patrick McGuire, a journalist for Vice News who often writes about Canadian politics and cyberspace. Under the new legislation, officers such as tax agents to sheriffs, CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) agents, and even mayors can obtain the data. This raised an alarm for the last Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, who released a statement last November commenting, “the potentially large number of ‘public officers’ who would be able to use these significant new powers.”

Another criticism came from C-13’s ability to make the process of uncovering said layers of criminality easier through the introduction of a “streamlined warrant,” which lowers the standards of retrieving data to a broad “reasonable grounds for suspicion.” “Is it truly something that is just a little more expedited than a warrant or is it something closer to a warrantless search?” commented Sean Casey, a Liberal Canadian politician.

However, supporters, including cyberbullied victims and their families, argue that it will allow law enforcement to have more power to deal with cybercrimes.

In an email to VICE News, father of Rehtaeh Parsons shared his thoughts on the legislation and what it means to him.

“My stance on Bill C-13 needs to be understood from the perspective of someone who has suffered the loss of a child. Our family watched for months as a devastating photo of our daughter spread throughout our community. It showed up repeatedly to haunt her every time she attempted to put her life back on track at a new school or to make new friends.

Everyone had it, everyone was talking about. No one, not one person, did anything about it or tried to stop it. Unbelievably the police didn’t make a single attempt to hold anyone accountable for this. They told us at the time it was not a police matter. The told us the people who did this to Rehtaeh were not breaking the law …

I do believe, if properly enforced, the amendments in Bill C-13 would have made a difference to our daughter.

Someone has to draw a line in the sand and that line has to address the age we live in and the technology we use. I’ve read a lot of criticisms of Bill C-13 and have yet to find one that offers a working solution as an alternative.”