N.S. girl fights back against cyberbullies
Published Wednesday, February 12, 2014 6:30PM AST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 12, 2014 6:50PM AST
A day after a landmark case put Nova Scotia’s new Cyber-Safety Act to the test, a mother and daughter are sharing their story.
Grace McCluskey, 12, says she is being targeted on Instagram and while her school and some of her fellow students have rallied to help, she still feels hopeless.
“Someone made an account ‘hey Grace is a loser.’ They’re posting photos of me, saying…go kill yourself,” says the Grade 7 student.
She says the hurtful comments posted on Instagram quickly spread through her school in Cole Harbour, N.S.
“I tried not to show my reaction, but I was sad that people were doing that.”
McCluskey’s mother says she was heartbroken after reading the comments about her daughter.
“It’s been an emotional week and we’re fortunate this didn’t take a turn for the worst,” says Catherine Kieran.
Kieran says, in this case, everyone did everything right. Her daughter ignored the posts and did not react, and school officials acted quickly after being tipped off by a student.
Keiran says she is grateful many students stood up for her daughter.
“Students flagged it as inappropriate and had told Grace they supported her, so it is the best of a bad situation.”
The school has contacted the RCMP about the matter, but police say there is little they can do.
“The RCMP told me no laws were broken,” says Kieran. “If the message said that person was going to kill Grace, that would be a threat, but it’s OK to go kill yourself?”
The case has been turned over to Nova Scotia’s new CyberSCAN unit, which is the first of its kind in Canada to be tasked with investigating complaints of cyberbullying.
Roger Merrick, the director of public safety, says disturbing attacks on social media are becoming more common and parents need to be aware of how their children are using social media sites.
“There is a huge responsibility on parents to really take a look at what their kids are using, what they’re accessing with their electronic devices,” says Merrick.
The investigator has put in a request to Facebook, which now owns Instagram, to freeze the account for 90 days.
The unit is also appealing to the Department of Justice for a court order, which will help them determine who is behind the messages.
The Cyber-Safety Act was put to the test on Tuesday, when a judge imposed a cyberbullying prevention order on a man accused of using Facebook to threaten the chief of a native band.
Andrea Paul, chief of Pictou Landing First Nation, complained in court documents that local resident Christopher George Prosper had used the social networking site to post abusive, obscene and defamatory comments about her and her family.
Judge Heather Robertson imposed a one-year court order that requires Prosper to remove all messages deemed to be cyberbullying, refrain from contacting Paul and stop cyberbullying. Prosper was also ordered to pay $750 in court costs.
The cyberbullying law was drafted after the death of Rehtaeh Parsons, who was taken off life-support last April after a suicide attempt.
Her family says the 17-year-old was subjected to months of bullying, much of it online, after a digital photo of her allegedly being sexually assaulted in November 2011 was passed around her school.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Marie Adsett and The Canadian Press