2nd Session, 41st Parliament,

Volume 149, Issue 17

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Justice

Cyberbullying

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I was waiting anxiously to see what the Minister of Justice would bring down on issues of cyberbullying, and yesterday I was looking forward to reading the bill.

As you know, the senators have done an extensive study on this issue. This has been a consensus study, but when I saw the bill — and I have not completely studied it because it was just tabled yesterday — I am shocked with what the bill has. The bill’s investigative tools that go beyond cyberbullying were never explained or even mentioned in the backgrounder on the proposed law posted by Justice Minister MacKay’s website.

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The omission has prompted critics, such as the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, to call the cyberbullying law a Trojan Horse for a controversial previous law, since withdrawn by the government, which would have expanded police powers to gain lawful access to electronic communications. Another group has said that this is essentially a cut-and-paste job from previous law on Internet surveillance, and it goes on.

Leader, I am concerned that for such a serious issue as cyberbullying, which the Senate has spent substantial resources and time studying, today we have a justice minister who will give powers to the police to spy on young people to see what they are doing. Is this how you are going to deal with cyberbullying?

[Translation]

Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, our government is determined to protect children from online predators and exploitation. We have followed through on the commitment made in the Speech from the Throne to better protect children from bullying, including cyberbullying, by introducing this bill to criminalize the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.

Cyberbullying reaches far beyond schoolyard bullying and, in certain cases, can become a criminal activity. Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, prohibits the non- consensual distribution of intimate images, and authorizes judges to order the removal of such images from the Internet; to order the seizure of the computer, cellphone or other mobile device used to commit the offence; to order the offender to repay the victim for the expenses incurred to obtain the removal of the images from the Internet or elsewhere; and to issue orders to prevent people from distributing intimate images.

These are tangible measures, honourable senators. As I mentioned yesterday, our government has also taken significant steps, as part of the National Crime Prevention Strategy, and this bill builds on our cyberbullying strategy.

[English]

Senator Jaffer: Honourable senators, with the greatest of respect, this is not another strategy. This is trying to send our young people to jail. It is not a strategy of creating dialogue in our society.

The Senate Human Rights Committee heard from young people who said that on the same day, the same person was a victim, a bully or a spectator — on the same day. Which day are you going to choose, and how many young people are you going to send to jail?

We were told there was an easy way to deal with this issue, which is when a complaint is made about images, the Internet provider would remove the images, and then you would have restorative justice where you bring together the people who are posting the images on the Internet and the people being harmed, and they deal with it in the school and in the community.

How many young people are we going to send to jail? Is it going to be the victim or the bully? Because on the same day, it could be the same person.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: Honourable senators, the bill is clear and is part of a comprehensive approach. I explained it yesterday and I will say again that our government has taken tangible measures to combat the negative behaviour associated with bullying and cyberbullying.

As I have already said, under the National Crime Prevention Strategy, our government has committed to allocating $10 million for new crime prevention programs, including anti-bullying programs in schools. Our government has supported and is currently supporting a number of awareness campaigns, such as You(th) are Not Alone, which is a tangible approach designed to increase awareness through campaigns in schools, as well as to ensure that there are consequences for those who choose to continue bullying even after they have been informed of or made aware of it. The comprehensive approach set out in Bill C-13 involves prohibiting the non-consensual distribution of images, seizing devices and compensating the victim when necessary.

[English]

Senator Jaffer: Before I ask my further supplementary question, honourable senators, I would be remiss if I did not recognize the work of Senator Ataullahjan in bringing this issue before us. The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights studied this matter because of her suggestion.

This was work done by the Senate, and I am very disappointed that the Minister of Justice did not see fit to recognize the work the Senate Human Rights Committee has done on cyberbullying, which is being shared all over the world.

Leader, how much money will be set aside for restorative justice so that young people are not thrown in jail?

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: As I explained, a number of awareness campaigns have been planned as part of the National Crime Prevention Strategy, which includes $10 million for new crime prevention programs, including anti-bullying programs at schools. This is a whole series of measures for preventing crime.

Obviously, when we focus on youth, we also focus on the scourge that cyberbullying has become. This is why we are taking this situation very seriously and why the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-13 yesterday in the House of Commons. We will certainly have the opportunity to consider it here and I hope that you will vote in favour of the bill.

[English]

Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: I have a supplementary question. Honourable senators, I have not had a chance to study this bill in some detail, but I hear that it does contain provisions that are unrelated to cyberbullying.

I would like to ask the leader, what does the theft of cable television systems have to do with cyberbullying? Why would it be put in this bill?

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: A series of measures have been planned to address cyberbullying, from removing images from the Internet, to seizing cellphones or any other mobile devices used in committing the offence. We want to ensure that any device or technology used to commit this crime can be seized and taken away.

[English]

Senator Moore: That doesn’t really answer the question. What does the theft of cable systems have to do with cyberbullying?

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: There is a whole range of technologies and methods that can be used to engage in cyberbullying, which is why the bill provides for all the options for seizing various technologies or technological devices. I have listed a few of them. Our government intends to combat cyberbullying regardless of the means used to commit this offence.

[English]

Senator Moore: I have a supplementary question. We’ll have to see what the study of this bill brings forward, but it looks to me like it’s a bit of a grab in terms of providing more electronic snooping, which perhaps today is not permitted under the law.

If we disagree with that and try to have it amended, along with the cable theft provisions, are you then going to say that we are supporting cyberbullying if we don’t agree with that?

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: This bill responds to the report on cyberbullying produced by the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Cybercrime Working Group after a long consultation process involving Canadians across the country.

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The group made the following recommendation:

…that the investigative powers contained in the Criminal Code be modernized.

I would like to add that if the police want to use any of these new powers, they will need a judge’s authorization, of course. As part of a comprehensive approach to fighting cyberbullying, the government realized that it had to modernize Criminal Code provisions. Once again, I hope that all senators will support these measures.

[English]

 

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