First prominent case testing Canada’s new cyberbullying law begins
Published Wednesday, August 17, 2016 7:26PM ADT
Six teens charged with distributing intimate images without consent appeared in court for the first time on Wednesday.
The start of the court case is testing a brand new Canadian law, brought in after the death of Rehtaeh Parsons.
“As technology changes, the law has to change as well to meet that,” says Crown Attorney Leigh-Ann Bryson.
The boys, now 15 and 18, are accused of sharing intimate images of more than 20 young girls with the US-based file sharing service-Dropbox. They’re also charged with possessing and distributing child pornography. Bridgewater Police laid the charges last month.
It all comes after a complaint from a high school principalin May 2015 and a cross border investigation that spanned more than a year.
“These charges are intended to capture something different than that captured just by the child pornography charges,” says Bryson.
Bill C-13 became law in March 2015, following the deaths of Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons.
“This law doesn't make sexting illegal. This doesn't make sharing intimate images amongst partners to an intimate relationship illegal in any way,” says Privacy Lawyer David Fraser. “It's the nonconsensual part. It's if the boyfriend receives a picture of the girlfriend and then forwards it to his buddies.”
Bryson says this is a complex and challenging case because there are six accused, all with different lawyers, all dealing with such a new law.
“There is not a lot of case-law available on this new charge, where it has so recently become part of our criminal code,” says Bryson.
Nova Scotia’s Civil Cyberbully Act was struck down in December2015. A Supreme Court judge said it was too broad and infringed on freedom of speech.
Fraser challenged that act, but says the federal law is better.
“This is laser focused at the nonconsensual distribution of intimate images,” says Fraser.
Still, at least one defence lawyer says he’ll be researching whether there are any parallels between the two laws.
“You have a new law that hasn’t been tested yet,” says Defence Lawyer Joshua Nodel. “I think as officers of the court, and also advocates for our clients, we have a responsibility. We need to see if indeed the law should be challenged, and if it meets or passes constitutional muster.”
He points out his client and the others accused in the case are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The six teens charged are all due back in court on October 5th.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kayla Hounsell