POLITICS

Nova Scotia legislation to combat cyberbullying to proceed unchanged

05/07/2012 04:44 EDT | Updated 07/07/2012 05:12 EDT
HALIFAX - A proposed bill to combat cyberbullying will proceed through the legislature without changes, Nova Scotia's education minister said Monday despite criticism that it should be strengthened.

Ramona Jennex said the intent of the bill tabled last month is to set the stage for future steps against cyberbullying.

"We're being very measured and methodical as we work through this because at the end we want to have a plan in place that actually affects the change we want to see, we don't want it to be patchwork," said Jennex.

Last week, a Nova Scotia woman whose teenage daughter committed suicide after being bullied made an emotional appearance before the legislature's law amendments committee, saying the bill "lacked meat."

Pam Murchison told the committee that the bill didn't do anything to stop the activities of bullies on the Internet.

Murchison said she wanted to see steps that would include consequences for bullies, whether that meant the loss of their Internet use or their computer.

The bill, which still has to pass third and final reading, establishes a government anti-bullying co-ordinator and requires schools to collect and monitor data before the government moves ahead with specific measures to deal with bullying.

The Opposition Liberals had proposed a series of changes, including a provision to require school boards to immediately notify Internet service and cellphone companies when bullying has occurred.

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil expressed disappointment that his party's suggestions were ignored.

"Tracking in the long term is fine, but you need to deal with the issue today," said McNeil.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said the government has missed an opportunity to take a strong stance against online bullying.

"The government is going to persist in passing a pretty meaningless piece of legislation that does nothing to end instances of bullying and cyberbullying," he said.

The Tories have tabled legislation that would define cyberbullying in law and allow a series of fines to be levied. It would also hold parents liable if they know their child is involved in online bullying and they don't try to prevent it.

Jennex said she expects to bring forward more concrete steps in a legislative package targeted for this fall.