Students break from books to talk about cyberbullying
Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and the country’s provincial justice ministers gathered in Ottawa today to discuss creating a law to curb cyberbullying.
The discussion comes after Nicholson and Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with the parents of Nova Scotia teenager Rehtaeh Parsons on Tuesday.
The 17-year-old took her own life earlier this month. Her family alleges she was sexually assaulted by four boys in 2011 and subsequently bullied after a digital photograph of the incident was shared around the school.
Parsons' parents want federal laws beefed up so more can be done to combat cybercrimes.
While the justice ministers are meeting behind closed doors, a more open discussion is taking place in schools and classrooms across the country.
A Grade 12 English class at Armbrae Academy in Halifax took a break from the books to talk about a proposed new law that would make it illegal to distribute intimate photos without consent.
“Is it possible to control distribution of these sorts of things? Can a law do what needs to be done?” asked their teacher, Ryan Shaw.
“I think a law would help the whole situation, but it's almost a personal choice too, because there are laws that tell people not to speed, but people still speed,” said student Allison Randall.
"When photos circle around they don't care," said one student. "They are like, 'oh, a photo, let me send this around to everyone i know instead of report it.' That's what happened with these photos that go around. We hear about it all the time."
"But at one point, there will be someone who will be like 'this is 100 per cent wrong. I will report this,'" said student Luke Vincent.
Privacy lawyer David Fraser wants to know where the justice system failed Rehtaeh Parsons and fix those shortfalls.
“If we focus all our effort on coming up with a new law that might have helped, we are perhaps not spending our energy or our resources well, because if that wasn't the gap, then the gap still exists somewhere else,” says Fraser.
The Halifax Regional School Board is now examining where that gap might be.
Peggy Milton is the education expert leading the inquiry that will review what should have been done, versus what actually happened in the Parsons’ case.
“We won’t name names and we won’t blame people,” says Milton. “We are after open, constructive conversations that help us understand what happened and what people would like not to happen in the future, in order that the outcome can be relevant to the whole of the province.”
Miltonsays the review will involve senior board officials and school principals and that an invitation to participate will also be extended to Rehtaeh’s family.
The panel is expected to produce an interim report by May 10 and a final report by June 14.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Kelland Sundahl